NASA administrator Charles Bolden has confirmed that the space agency is ready to develop its next-gen Space Launch System (SLS).
The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth's orbit and destinations beyond.
The SLS is also expected to serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station (ISS).
"This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world," said Bolden.
"President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, kids today can now dream of one day walking on Mars."
According to NASA, the SLS rocket will incorporate technology from the Space Shuttle and Constellation programs to leverage proven hardware, cutting-edge tooling and manufacturing techniques - all of which should significantly reduce development and operations costs.
The SLS will be equipped with a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propulsion system, along with the RS-25D/E from the Space Shuttle program for the core stage and the J-2X engine for the upper stage.
SLS will also use solid rocket boosters for the initial development flights, with follow-on boosters to be completed based on performance requirements and affordability considerations. Initial lift capacity is pegged at 70 metric tons (mT) and evolvable to 130 mT.
The Space Launch System will be NASA's first exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V transported American astronauts to the moon over 40 years ago.
With its superior lift capability, the SLS will expand our reach in the solar system and allow us to explore cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids, Mars and its moons and beyond.
The first SLS developmental flight, or mission, is targeted for the end of 2017.