Watch NASA’s historic Moon mission rocket test at 5PM ET

Watch NASA’s historic Moon mission rocket test at 5PM ET

This isn’t the most powerful heavy-duty rocket in the near term. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy generates slightly more thrust at 1.7 million pounds at sea level versus SLS’ 1.67 million, and both are well below the 7.89 million pounds of Saturn V’s first stage. It’s more expensive than some offerings, too, at $2 billion per launch versus $90 million for the highly reusable Falcon Heavy and $350 million for ULA’s Delta IV Heavy.

However, SLS is also poised to be one of the most capable platforms. One mission can carry payloads that might require two or more launches even for SpaceX’s upcoming Starship, let alone existing options. That could save NASA money, and greatly simplifies some missions. It’s just a question of how often you’ll see SLS in action — with the incoming Biden administration expected to delay the Artemis program, it might not get as much use as planned.

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