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NASA's deep space rocket to launch small satellites

Video: NASA

The US space agency NASA on Tuesday said its new rocket for deep space mission, the Space Launch System (SLS), will carry 13 small satellites along with an uncrewed Orion spacecraft during its first flight in 2018.The main objective of the SLS first mission, which will fly just beyond the Moon, is to evaluate the integrated system performance of Orion and the rocket prior to the first crewed flight, Xinhua reported."The SLS is providing an incredible opportunity to conduct science missions and test key technologies beyond low-Earth orbit," Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Development, said in a statement."This rocket has the unprecedented power to send Orion to deep space plus room to carry 13 small satellites payloads that will advance our knowledge about deep space with minimal cost," Hill said.For its first flight, the SLS rocket will be configured for a 77-ton lift capacity, but it eventually will provide an "unprecedented" lift capability of 143 tons, which will enable missions even further into our solar system, including such destinations as an asteroid and Mars.