HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (CBS Tampa) – NASA is getting ready to return to deep space.

Officials say its new mega rocket will be ready to launch no later than November 2018, reports Space.com.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is designed to send humans on future missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Standing at 400 feet tall, about 40 feet taller than the Saturn V that sent men to the moon, the SLS will be the largest rocket ever constructed.

Engineers have been scrutinizing the rocket’s design, looking for problems that could hinder or delay construction of the SLS.

“Our nation is embarked on an ambitious space exploration program, and we owe it to the American taxpayers to get it right,” says NASA associate administrator Robert Lightfoot. “After rigorous review, we’re committing today to a funding level and readiness date that will keep us on track to sending humans to Mars in the 2030s, and we’re going to stand behind that commitment.”

NASA estimates it will spend $7 billion to complete the project.

The first test flight will leave low-Earth orbit with an unmanned Orion space capsule.

Officials say it’s possible the rocket could launch as early as December 2017 if all goes well during design and construction.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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