NASA and Boeing have entered the final phase of assembling structural parts for the powerful Space Launch System (SLS), which is managed at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
The assembly phase of work is being completed at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Boeing technicians at Michoud last week moved the SLS engine section to begin the connection process with the rest of the rocket’s core stage.
The SLS will be the rocket that launches America’s next lunar mission, Artemis, in 2024. It will be the most powerful rocket ever built and the only one powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch.
This comes after the previous phase of construction, which merged the two largest parts of the 212-foot core stage: the massive liquid hydrogen tank and the completed forward section. The engine section represents the final 20% of the first SLS rocket that needs to be connected.
Last Monday, NASA and Boeing engineers removed the scaffolding surrounding the hardware to use a special tool to properly position the engine section for its attachment.
Read more about the connection process here.
The core stage’s two liquid propellant tanks and engines will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send the SLS rocket on NASA’s Artemis lunar missions, which are intended to also pave the way to American manned missions to Mars in the near future.
The engine section houses the four RS-25 engines and includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.
Testing for the SLS is conducted at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, and the rocket will eventually launch at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA this week also released a video summarizing the different components that will make Artemis possible, with the SLS taking center stage.
North Alabama also will play a leading role in other components of Artemis, including with the lunar Gateway and the new Human Landing System. Historic contributions to America’s space prowess are being made by several private sector partners in the Yellowhammer State, such as United Launch Alliance (ULA), Boeing and Dynetics.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn