How the Space Launch System Impacts the Economy and Society

NASA’s Space Launch System not only as many scientific benefits, but also economical and cultural ones as well


Air Date: November 17, 2020

Moderator: David Levy, Chair of the Procurement and Space Industry Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Christian Zur, Former Executive Director, Procurement and Space Industry Council, Mark Christie, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Featured Guests: Bob Latta, Congressman (R-OH-5), United States House of Representatives

Deep space exploration is the next American frontier. Today, scientists at NASA are developing ways in order to enhance human development and productivity in outer space. The government policies and programs that are being developed won't just influence the next few years of cultural innovation but also the next few generations.

One of the biggest projects is the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), a super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle that is under development by NASA. It will be the world's most powerful rocket and help transport space personnel and materials to the moon and beyond. The development of the SLS not only has an impact on the scientific community but also local and state governments. Here are two insights about the ascending SLS project.

The SLS Will Oversee the First Woman to Land on the Moon

One of the first programs the SLS will launch is the historic Artemis program.

“Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology,” said Dr. Richard Gilbrech, center director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center. “This program's stated goal is to land the first female and the next male on the south pole of the moon by 2024. That journey will be powered by the space launch system core.”

Currently, the SLS is developing the rockets and core stages for the initial launch of Artemis 1, and the hardware for its subsequent flights is being developed at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.

Because the Artemis 1 flight won't have a crew aboard, NASA has the ability to test out all the systems to make sure they're safe for astronauts on future missions. The Artemis 2 flight will send astronauts around the moon for the first time since 1972. Astronauts will once again walk on the moon during the Artemis 3 mission, and the hardware for that flight is also starting to take shape at Michoud with 2.2 million feet of factory floor space.

Michoud is the only facility that can build NASA's SLS rockets and Orion cruise spacecraft with 43 acres under one continuous roof. Michoud is a national asset, as well as a powerhouse of economic output for Louisiana and the nation for aerospace companies, 3,500 workers, and one mission to build the world's most powerful rocket and safest crew capsule.

NASA and Its Programs Are Vital to State Economies

“In 2019, the SLS Orion and exploration ground systems programs did business with 55 companies in Louisiana and Mississippi,” said Robert Champion, director of the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility.

“NASA works with small mom and pop shops as well as medium and large-sized businesses. NASA [also] sourced contracts in Louisiana, totaling more than $116 million, and in that same year, NASA employed 182 civil servants in Louisiana. Those Louisianans earn more than $30 million. The total economic impact in Louisiana of NASA is 2,474 jobs, more than $141 million in labor income at $425 million in economic output.”

“NASA generates nearly $14 million in tax revenue for state and local governments to Louisiana.”

With such a hefty economic impact, it's essential for local lawmakers to secure funding for these projects to continue this financial growth. Not just in Louisiana, but in every state it impacts, such as Alabama.

“Anytime you have a lot of programs that are coming out of one deal, you have competing programs from different agencies,” said Rep. Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama.

“Some members will be very interested in trying to make sure funding for one is robust … [so] we have to make sure that the funding is there on a steady stream.”