But SLS, which is jokingly called the Senate Launch System, is an obscenely expensive rocket. The rocket project is expected to cost at least $8.9 billion by 2021, and a single flight of the expandable SLS rocket has a projected cost of $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.
Critics have long urged NASA to cancel SLS and it seems this is now finally on the table, but only after commercial firms have proven they can offer manned spaceflight. Stephen Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, told Business Insider at The Economist Space Summit on November 1 that SLS will eventually be retired in favor of buying launch capacity on commercial rockets. Oddly enough, Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of NASA, contradicted this statement on Twitter.
“I think our view is that if those commercial capabilities come online, we will eventually retire the government system, and just move to a buying launch capacity on those [rockets],” Stephen Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, told Business Insider at The Economist Space Summit on November 1.
However, Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of NASA, appears to have publicly denied his colleague’s statement.
“In case there is any confusion, @NASA will NOT be retiring @NASA_SLS in 2022 or any foreseeable date. It is the backbone of America’s return to the Moon with international and commercial partners,” Bridenstine tweeted on Monday, following the initial publication of this story on Saturday.