What are the differences between the two giant launch vehicles from SpaceX and NASA?

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[EN VIDÉO] SLS, the most powerful launcher in the world
Video presentation of the future most powerful launch vehicle in the world, developed by NASA for the Artemis lunar program.

Today the NASA and SpaceX each develop a heavy launch vehicle that will take people to the Moon and on Mars. With the Space Launch System (SLS), built by Boeing, NASA is acquiring a launch vehicle for its future manned reconnaissance missions to the Moon, Mars and an asteroid. It will also be used to probe around the remotest worlds of the Solar system† Finally, it can be used to transmit tens of tons of infrastructure track low. As part of the Artemis Return to the Moon program, it will be used to Orion capsule† This future launcher will use two booster boosters propellant solid directly derived from Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) of the Space Shuttle. Only difference, if the boosters for the spaceship had four booster segments, those of the SLS will have five. With a height of 54 meters it will be the tallest boosters ever built.

As for SpaceX, it’s developing the giant launch vehicle spaceship whose main goal is to send hundreds of people to Mars to red planet† As a reminder, “Starship” refers to the space transport vehicle and the top stage of the launch vehicle. The main stage, that is, the booster needed to launch the Starship, is called “Super Heavy”. This future “all-purpose” and reusable transport system, once it is put into operation, will have to cover the entire current range of pitchers and SpaceX cargo and manned transportation systems. That is, the Falcon Heavy and the Falcon 9used for launching satellites, refueling the International Space Station and crew rotation. This launch vehicle will also be used for commercial missions to the moon and NASA plans to use it for its astronauts on the moon.

And yes, unlike the SLS, the Starship is a fully reusable transport system that can land on the Moon or Mars. the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy only partially because only the ground floor is being restored. The top stage of any launcher is lost on every launch.

Installed on the Kennedy Space Center launch pad, the SLS is preparing for a series of tests with a view to its maiden flight which could take place in June or July, although NASA is not ruling out a launch in May. This mission, Artemis I, will consist of an unmanned test flight around the moon, following a trajectory similar to that of the mission Apollo 8, using the gravity moon to gain speed and propel itself nearly 70,000 miles past the moon, nearly half a million miles from Earth—further than any human has ever traveled. on his return journey, Orion will be performing Overview from the moon before returning to Earth. The mission lasts about 20 days and ends with a swim in the Pacific Ocean.

A roller coaster around the moon and a flight from point to point

To SpaceX spaceship, the date of the first flight is also very uncertain. in the latest news, Elon Musk predicted it in the month of May. Unlike the SLS Moon Roller Coaster, the Starship’s maiden flight will be less ambitious. It is a so-called point-to-point flight, a flight into space that wants to connect Texas with thearchipelago from Hawaii, without reaching full Earth orbit.

In terms of performance, the SLS will be available in three versions with different transport capacities depending on the version. The Block 1 version, the only one in development, will be used to launch the first three Artemis missions. This version will have a capacity of 95 tons in low Earth orbit and 27 tons for lunar missions. With the Block 1B version, the capacity increases to 105 tons in low Earth orbit and 42 tons sent to the moon. The Block 2 version is expected to launch 130 tons into low Earth orbit and 46 tons for lunar missions. As for the spaceship, it will be able to send more than 100 tons into low Earth orbit and 21 tons into a orbit geostationary. But, and this is the peculiarity of the spacecraft, if it is refueled in orbit, its performance increases significantly and goes from 100 to 150 tons on its way to, for example, the moon or Mars.

Unsurprisingly, the SLS won’t be cheap, but not at all. in 2019, Ars-Technica estimated that the cost could exceed $2 billion to rocket ship once a year. In March 2022, a study concluded it could cost twice as much, at $4.1 billion. The Starship, on the other hand, will obviously be cheaper, but certainly not as cheap as Elon Musk says, who estimates the cost at “cruising speed” at just $2 million, thanks to the efficiency savings that come from reusing.

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