Doug Loverro, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the space agency essentially requires the Space Launch System to pursue the manned lunar mission planned for 2024, Space News reported Wednesday.
Loverro made this statement with Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, against criticisms on SLS' high sustainment costs compared to those of commercial launch vehicles.
An official from the Office of Management and Budget claimed that SLS would cost $2B per launch, compared to a commercial launch valued at one-fourth the amount.
Loverro said he does not see SLS as a competitive effort against commercial vehicles, noting that NASA needs every launch opportunity available from the country. Bridenstine also noted that OMB's $2B estimate far exceeds his projection on the SLS rocket's cost per launch.
“I think at the end, we’re going to be at the $800M to $900M range," Bridenstine said and added that his estimates are also unsure as the SLS production contract had just begun.
NASA seeks to revive manned lunar exploration via the Artemis program, with SLS serving as a major component for the effort.