In a change from its original plan, NASA has awarded a contract for making a second mobile launcher at the Kennedy Space Center which will transport the agency’s huge Space Launch System (SLS), Space.com has reported.
Last year, the US space agency had announced that it would not be building a second mobile launcher due to lack of funds for its construction in 2019 budget and instead it had planned to make modifications in the existing mobile launcher, the report said.
However, recently NASA announced that Bechtel National, an engineering services company based in Reston, Virginia will be designing and building a second mobile launcher called Mobile Launcher 2 (ML2). getting a second launcher will reduce the time between two versions of the SLS, which is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA. Bechtel will complete the design, build, testing and commissioning of ML2 within a period of 44 months starting from July 1.
In the absence of a second mobile launcher, the US space agency would have needed to launch SLS Block 1 rocket, modify the platform for accommodating the bigger SLS Block 1B rocket before it could launch the second one.
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel in its 2017 annual report had advised building a second mobile launcher. It said that having a second launcher would save approximately 33 months between the launches and it would also prevent safety issues which can arise from “the deterioration in both the number and skill of the ground launch work force,”.
The ML2 will get used for assembling, processing and launching of the SLS Block 1B as well as the Orion spacecraft for the space agency’s Moon to Mars exploration program. US President Donald Trump had asked NASA to send humans back to the Moon before it attempts to send its first human crew to the neighbouring planet.
“This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
The US space agency plans to send humans back to the Moon by 2024 and SLS and Orion capsules will be necessary to help it fulfill the dream.