Boeing’s Huntsville-managed moon rocket core stage arrives at Kennedy Space Center
The Space Launch System (SLS) core stage on Thursday arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in preparation for launch of the Artemis I mission, the first moon mission in nearly 50 years.
SLS is the world’s most powerful ever rocket that will power America’s next-generation moon missions and subsequent crewed missions to Mars. Alabama’s aerospace industry has led the effort to build the SLS, which stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.
Boeing is the core stage lead contractor, with the company’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division managing its SLS work — which is the backbone NASA’s deep space exploration missions.
The SLS core stage has now been unloaded from a barge and moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building. This is the first lunar rocket to arrive at the facility since the Apollo program.
Next, the 212-foot core stage will be stacked with a Boeing/United Launch Alliance (ULA) Interim Cryogenic Upper Stage, two solid rocket boosters, a Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter and the Orion spacecraft. Teams will prepare the SLS to launch Orion on an uncrewed Artemis I mission around the moon and back.
The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will test the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the moon for sustained exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and cargo to the moon in a single mission.
Artemis I will be followed by Artemis II, the first crewed lunar fly-by for the Artemis program. Artemis III is set to be the first crewed lunar landing of the program and the first-ever time a woman steps on the moon’s surface.
Boeing and NASA employees are already working towards constructing even more powerful SLS core stages 2 and 3 for those future Artemis missions.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn