wooferhound writes with an article in the Orlando Sentinel about NASA's Deep Space Exploration project. From the article: "After months of debate, NASA has settled on plans for its next spaceship — a space shuttle hybrid that will fly twice in the next decade and cost $30 billion through 2021, according to senior administration officials and internal NASA documents. That NASA decided to recycle elements of the shuttle is not unexpected. Last year, Congress and the White House agreed NASA should reuse equipment from old programs and the new design — which includes a giant fuel tank and two booster rockets — largely reflects that compromise. The most noticeable change is the plane-like orbiter will be replaced by an Apollo-like crew capsule atop the tank." The Space Launch System will be powered by a combination of the Shuttle main engine for the core launch stage, and the J-2 engine (from the Saturn V project) for the upper stage. The same solid booster rockets used for Shuttle missions will be used for at least the initial unmanned launch in 2017, but NASA will have a design contest to replace them for the 2021 crewed launch and beyond.
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