Again, I did some research, and again, the results aren't that impressive.

I was able to find that SLS is to become the " successor to the retired Space Shuttle, and the primary launch vehicle of NASA's deep space exploration plans through the 2020s."here's where I found the information however, I'm confused, SLS is absolutely MASSIVE and I don't think they can build and launch them with as quick of a turnaround then NASA could with the STS, does anyone have information on how often the SLS will launch once it becomes fully operational? (the tags crewed and uncrewed spaceflight were used due to the fact that SLS has a crewed and uncrewed version, so I think that qualifies it to be used with those tags.)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Or indeed ever? $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Sep 24, 2022 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ Ask again once it had a single launch. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – U. Windl
    Sep 24, 2022 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ @U.Windl - Assuming it doesn't go KABOOM! on the pad. In which case I suspect the entire programme will be shelved $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Sep 25, 2022 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard: Sadly, some of the comments this week sounded almost like carbon copies of pre-Challenger press conferences, and there was definitely a strong sense of "go fever" in the air, so that is a very real possibility. Thankfully, it seems they somewhat came to their senses earlier today. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2022 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard hehe rocket go brrr! $\endgroup$ Oct 14, 2022 at 22:24

2 Answers 2


Given the available data, no.

Ignoring details like the lengthy stand-downs after the two loss-of-crew-and-vehicle shuttle mishaps, a naive calculation (135 launches between 4/12/81 and 7/8/11) gives an average of a shuttle launch every ~82 days (see also How often were Space Shuttle launches scrubbed?)

Shuttle launches per calendar year:

enter image description here

(The shortest interval between shuttle launches was 16 days (3 instances), the longest was 975 days.)

The current SLS schedule calls for 5 launches in ~5 years. Other payloads than Artemis have been proposed, but none are confirmed to my knowledge, now that Europa Clipper has been moved to a SpaceX vehicle.


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hey! I just realized, with @organic marble 's information with 5 launches in 5 years, that means 1 SLS will go up a year, which also means space geeks like me can treat it like a holiday! Boss: "Why weren't you at work yesterday!?!" me: "sorry, SLS day!" (don't try this, you'll be fired...) $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2022 at 22:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The environment just changed. Nobody will commercially place a satellite using SLS, the (partially) cold-war-fueled space race (and the corresponding NASA budget) just isn't there anymore for this number of public sector payloads $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Sep 23, 2022 at 11:36
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It's an odd day when you can say "yeah, it won't launch nearly as frequently as the Shuttle" about a launch system. $\endgroup$
    – DylanSp
    Sep 23, 2022 at 14:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Hobbamok And few payloads need the SLS capacity--Falcon Heavy launches most of them at a far lower price. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2022 at 20:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think 5 launches in 5 years is very optimistic. Artemis 3 requires the EVA suits which I understand are currently delayed. Artemis 4 requires the Mobile Launcher 2 which an independent auditor estimates to be finished in December 2027, which assuming 1 year of testing and integration would mean Artemis 4 no earlier than end of 2028–beginning of 2029. Also, from when are you counting? Artemis 1's launch date was originally 2017, and now it is 2022 and it still has not launched. Does that count as 1 launch in 5 years? It was delayed at least 16 times, which of those dates are you counting? $\endgroup$ Sep 24, 2022 at 13:36

Your question is based on Wikipedia's description of this as "successor to the retired Space Shuttle". This statement is so severely flawed as to be basically untrue.

The Shuttle was explicitly designed to be a reuseable low-Earth orbiter, carrying medium-sized payloads for relatively cost-effective launches into geostationary orbit. This mission is currently now carried out by SpaceX and Arianespace. NASA has no in-house vehicle which fits this role, and SLS was never intended to carry this out.

The SLS is a super-heavy launch system, with all components expendable, which is intended for launches beyond Earth orbit. It is actually intended to replace the Saturn V which last flew in 1973. Since Saturn V, the US has not had super-heavy launch capability. The SLS is explicitly designed to restore US ability to launch missions to the Moon, and subsequently to Mars.

The SLS can only be considered a "successor" to the Shuttle in the sense that it uses some Shuttle-era components (such as boosters) and is also NASA's only in-house crewed launch system. In terms of cost, design, mission and capabilities, the SLS categorically is not a "successor".

Considering this, I intend updating the Wikipedia entry to correct the statement. :)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Since Saturn V, the US has not had super-heavy launch capability.": note that by NASA's definition (capable of 50 t to LEO), the Falcon Heavy is a SHLLV. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2022 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham Good, that entry is misleading. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2022 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @ChristopherJamesHuff True - thanks for the correction, although that's a heavy (Saturn IB equivalent) and not super-heavy. It'd be more accurate to say NASA doesn't (yet) have that capability in-house. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Sep 25, 2022 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham it's a super-heavy. Falcon Heavy in expendable configuration has a max payload to orbit of 63.8 t, above the 50 t threshold. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2022 at 13:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.