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For the first time in almost 40 years, a NASA human-rated launch vehicle has completed its Critical Design Review (CDR). With this milestone, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft are on the path to launch a new era of deep space exploration. This first launch of SLS and the Orion spacecraft is planned no later than November 2018 and will fly along a translunar trajectory, testing the performance of the SLS and Orion systems for future missions. NASA is making investments to expand the science and exploration capability of the SLS by developing the capability to deploy small satellites during the translunar phase of the mission trajectory. Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) will include 13 6U CubeSat small satellites to be deployed beyond low Earth orbit. By providing an Earth-escape trajectory, opportunities are created for the advancement of small satellite subsystems, including deep space communications and in-space propulsion. This SLS capability also creates low-cost options for addressing existing agency strategic knowledge gaps and affordable science missions. A new approach to payload integration and mission assurance is needed to ensure safety of the vehicle while also maintaining reasonable costs for the small payload developer teams. SLS EM-1 will provide the framework and serve as a test flight, not only for vehicle systems but also payload accommodations, ground processing, and on-orbit operations. Through developing the requirements and integration processes for EM-1, NASA is outlining the framework for the evolved configuration of secondary payloads on SLS Block upgrades. The lessons learned from the EM-1 mission will be applied to processes and products developed for future block upgrades. In the heavy-lift configuration of SLS, payload accommodations will increase for secondary opportunities including small satellites larger than the traditional CubeSat-class payload. The payload mission concept of operations, proposed payload capacity of SLS, and the payload requirements for launch and deployment will be described to provide potential payload users an understanding of this unique exploration capability.
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SLS Mission Planners Program Mission Planners Guide, Version 2. SLS-MNL-202, Sept. 22, 2015
- Secondary Payload Opportunities on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Enable Science and Deep Space Exploration
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