NASA Begins Assembling Massive SLS Rocket for Moon Mission

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NASA SLS 8 Motor Segments

Credit: NASA

Eight rocket motor segments for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) are lined up in preparation for stacking at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As each segment completed processing, workers moved them to the surge bay at Kennedy’s Rotation, Processing, and Surge Facility. Each of the fully assembled, 177-foot-tall solid rocket boosters on SLS produce more than 3.6 million pounds of thrust and together provide more than 75% of the total thrust during the first two minutes of launch and flight. The booster segments will help power the first Artemis mission of NASA’s Artemis program with the SLS rocket.

Artemis I Stacks Up

The first of 10 pieces of the twin Space Launch System (SLS) rocket boosters for NASA’s Artemis I mission was placed on the mobile launcher Saturday, November 21, 2020, inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Engineers used one of five overhead cranes to lift the segment from the VAB’s High Bay 4 to the newly renovated High Bay 3. The component is the bottom section of the booster, known as the aft assembly, which house the system that controls 70% of the steering during the rocket’s initial ascent. Over several weeks, the other segments will be stacked one at a time and topped with the forward assembly. Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team transported the motor segments to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and will use a crane to lift the booster segments and stack them one by one on the mobile launcher. The bottom section of the boosters, known as the aft assemblies, were completed in November and moved to the VAB, and the first of the two pieces was placed on the mobile launcher November 21. The boosters are the first elements of SLS to be installed on the mobile launcher ahead of the Artemis I launch. After booster stacking is complete, the core stage, which is undergoing final Green Run testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, will be delivered to Kennedy and moved to the VAB to continue rocket construction.

Stacking SLS Boosters

Two 177-foot-tall solid rocket boosters help launch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on the Artemis missions to the Moon. Each booster is made up of several large structures that are assembled and prepared for launch by the Exploration Ground Systems team at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Kevin O’Brien

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and Orion, along with the human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Space Launch System in Flight

The SLS is an advanced, heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for science and human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. Credit: NASA

Launching in 2021, Artemis I will be an uncrewed test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.





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