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NASA’s newest rocket, SLS, blasts off with Alabama DNA

NASA’s Space Launch System — the space agency’s most powerful rocket ever — blasted off on its inaugural mission earlier this week, thanks to major contributions from scientists, engineers, technicians and other workers in Alabama.

Following the successful launch, NASA’s Orion spacecraft is on its way to the Moon as part of the Artemis program. Carrying an uncrewed Orion, SLS lifted off for its flight test debut at 12:47 a.m. Wednesday from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA said the launch represents the first leg of the Artemis 1 mission in which Orion is planned to travel approximately 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and return to Earth over the course of 25.5 days.

Alabama officials congratulated the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which spearheaded design and development of SLS, and Boeing’s Alabama workforce, which has also played a key role in the program. NASA says 106 companies in Alabama made contributions to the SLS and Orion projects.

“It’s wonderful to have America taking the lead in deep space exploration again with the Artemis I program. It’s a source of pride for all Americans and can be the driver of a new generation of young dreamers to pursue science, math and technical studies,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“Artemis I can expand the reach of the space workshop of the future, by carrying the first woman and first person of color to the moon, proving that space exploration is for everyone.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, was at Kennedy Space Center for the landmark launch.

“The Artemis I launch is another milestone in the impressive history of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,” he said. “From the pioneering development of the Saturn V rocket over a half century ago to designing and developing the new SLS that will take Artemis back to the Moon, thousands of Alabama space workers can take great pride in contributing to this incredible accomplishment.”


Marshall not only contributed to Artemis I, but its teams are also already building rockets and working on other technology and hardware needed for future missions that will return American astronauts to the surface of the Moon, part of establishing a long-term lunar presence.

“Artemis I will carry a lot of the expertise, effort, and pride of our Marshall team members,” Marshall Director Jody Singer said. “From manufacturing and testing the bones and brains of the Space Launch System rocket, to supporting it through this flight and beyond, we are so proud to contribute to this historic achievement in our nation’s space program.”

Marshall is home to the Space Launch System Program Office, which leads the planning, design, development, testing, evaluation, production, and operation of the integrated launch vehicle.

Marshall team members also developed and tested the flight software in-house and built key parts of the rocket in manufacturing facilities.

In addition, key structural tests of SLS’s liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel tanks were conducted at Marshall.

Boeing, which has had a major presence in Huntsville for over 60 years, served as the prime contractor for the design, development, test and production of the launch vehicle core stage and upper stages, as well as development of the flight avionics suite.

Marshall Space Flight Center Deputy Director Joseph Pelfrey, a 2000 Auburn University aerospace alumnus whose team designed and developed SLS, said there’s a special tribute to his alma mater hidden inside the rocket.

“War Eagle! is written somewhere inside that vehicle (Artemis),” Pelfrey said. “I’m not going to say where, or who put it there, but I can assure you, ‘War Eagle’ is already there.”

Auburn University has contributed significant engineering and administrative talent to Marshall Space Flight Center and to the nation’s space program, including several astronauts.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

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