NASA on July 31 successfully completed the Space Launch System (SLS) preliminary design review, with senior experts and engineers from across the agency concluding that the design, associated production and ground support plans for the next U.S. heavy-lift launch vehicle are technically and programmatically capable of filling the vehicle’s mission objectives.

“The review had to be incredibly detailed, so our plans for vehicle integration, flight software, test, verification and operations will result in a safe, affordable and sustainable vehicle design,” Todd May, manager of the SLS Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said in a statement. 

The review, which involved 11 different teams analyzing approximately 200 documents and 15 terabytes of data, marks the conclusions of the initial design and technology development phase for SLS, which will stand 98 meters tall, provide 8.4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, and carry nearly 70,000 kilograms of payload. 

The rocket’s first mission is scheduled for 2017 when it will launch an unmanned Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a demonstration flight

The SLS program’s next milestone is Key Decision Point-C, where NASA will grant the program authority to move from formulation to implementation. It also marks the point at which NASA is expected to publicly release a cost estimate for the program. 

The SLS program completed a combined system requirements review and system definition review in July 2012 that set the requirements of the overall launch vehicle system and confirmed the SLS was ready to move from concept to design, NASA said in a statement. 

“In two short years from the first announcement of the Space Launch System, we are at a milestone that validates the detailed design and integration of the system,” Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “You can feel the momentum of the workforce as we produce test hardware today. We are creating a national capability, and we will get this country, and the world, exploring deep space.”