The NASA next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) is a multi-billion-dollar rocket project that is expected to officially debut during a November 2018 space launch. NASA expects to invest an additional $7 billion from February 2014 until the late 2018 test launch, in which the SLS will shuttle an Orion crew vehicle past the moon and back to Earth.
"If we don't do anything, we basically have a 70 percent chance of getting to that date," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA space operations associate administrator, in a statement to the media. "Our intent is to go look at those (expected) problems and see what we can do to mitigate (them)."
Total cost could surpass $12 billion to develop three variations of the SLS, with billions more needed to fly heavier next-generation boosters into orbit. As NASA and other space nations look beyond the International Space Station (ISS) - mainly to Mars - the SLS could help NASA push research of the Red Planet to a new level.
NASA heavily relies on the Russian space program to ferry astronauts and supplies to and from the ISS, but with growing political tensions, the U.S. space agency also has called on private rocket companies for assistance.