NASA nixes crew for test flight of new megarocket in 2019

This undated image made available by NASA shows an artist’s rendering of the Space Launch System. (NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA says the test flight of its new megarocket will fly without a crew.

In February at the request of the White House, NASA began studying the feasibility of putting astronauts on the first flight. After evaluating the cost and risk, the space agency decided against it.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot informed employees of the decision Friday.

Still in development, the super-sized rocket is meant to eventually send astronauts to Mars. The first launch had been targeted for next year, but is now off until 2019.

Earlier this week, NASA reported that a section of test hardware was damaged during manufacturing in New Orleans. No one was injured in the May 3 mishap. But the bottom dome for a liquid oxygen tank was ruined. NASA is investigating.