The core of the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's large new rocket, has officially passed its preliminary design review (PDR).
The core stage, containing five former Space Shuttle engines, fuel tanks and plumbing, is the launch vehicle's base. With the core stage design essentially completed, designers can plan other crucial spacecraft components, such as the upper stage and external boosters, with assurance that the core will not demand changing requirements.
"We can now allow those time-critical areas of design to move forward with initial fabrication and proceed toward the final design phase - culminating in a critical design review in 2014 - with confidence," says Tony Lavoie, SLS Stages Element programme manager at NASA.
The first SLS launch is scheduled for 2017.
The SLS is designed to launch up to 70 metric tonnes into orbit, with the Orion capsule as a primary payload. Later versions of the launch vehicle will launch up to 130 tonnes.