The SLS will use the main engines of the space shuttle. Are these capable of retro-burns in the upper atmosphere like SpaceX’s Merlin engines?

More broadly, could the SLS’ main engines and supporting thrusters perform a vertical landing if programmed with proper software?


They cannot, because SSMEs cannot be restarted in flight. See this answer for the details as to why.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wow. That’s a bummer. This thing really is the Senate Launch System. $\endgroup$ – techSultan Jul 22 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ IMHO it's criminal to dump those SSMEs into the ocean. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jul 22 at 1:10

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