Although the details of the design of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) have yet to be released, significant information about the schedule and cost is leaking out, in particular in the following two recent articles:
Orlando Sentinel, August 5, 2011:
New NASA moon rocket could cost $38 billion
NASA Spaceflight.com, July 27, 2011:
Preliminary NASA plan shows Evolved SLS vehicle is 21 years away
In brief, the projected schedule and cost is as follows:
First launch of SLS is December 2017, carrying an unmanned Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV, otherwise known as Orion) around the Moon and back. Cost: Between $17 and $22 billion.
Second launch of SLS is August 2021, carrying a manned Orion vehicle around the Moon and back. Cost: An additional $12 to $16 billion.
Projected flight rate beyond that is one mission per year, alternating between manned and cargo missions.
The consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton is expected to come out with an independent cost analysis later this month.