AL.com reported on February 6, 2014 that the various aerospace contractors working on the Orion and the heavy lift Space Launch System expect to meet all of their milestones for 2014. This will include an expected flight test of the Orion on a Delta IV to take place during the fall. But that will not be the only event to take place during the current year. The contractors will:
“Open a new Vertical Assembly Center at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility at New Orleans where Boeing will begin welding on the barrels, rings and domes that will make up the rocket's core stage. That core stage will be more than 200 feet tall and almost 28-feet wide.
‘Test fire the first core stage engine at an Aerojet Rocketdyne facility in July. NASA will use four space shuttle main engines to provide the primary power to lift the rocket.
“Test fire at an ATK site a prototype of new solid fuel side boosters that will support the main engines on liftoff.”
The fact that the SLS seems to be on schedule and on budget in advance of a planned 2017 launch will come as bad news for critics of the heavy lift rocket, such as former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, who have called for the project’s cancellation. Some have slammed the SLS as being too expensive to support NASA space exploration efforts, though no one has offered a viable alternative. In any case the project will be harder to kill if it continues to perform well.