Pegasus delivers pieces of SLS Rocket System to Marshall Space Flight Center

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It's not often we get to discuss Greek mythology these days, but today we have a HUGE reason.

If you remember the story from school, mythology tells Pegasus sprang fully grown from the neck of Medusa after she was killed by Perseus. Pegasus was charged with bringing thunderbolts to Zeus on Mt. Olympus.

Just like the winged horse, the modified barge that will transport the largest rocket stage in the world was symbolically named Pegasus by NASA because it won't be deterred from its mission.

Pegasus transported pieces of the SLS Rocket System 1,240 miles up river from NASA's Michoud Rocket Factory in New Orleans to Marshall here in Huntsville.

It's big. As in B-I-G, big.

Big as a city block big.

"The barge had to be lengthened 50 feet in order to accommodate the new SLS Core Stage which will be coming on board," explained Terry Fitzgerald, the Mariner Operations Manager.

Pegasus is 310 feet long and 50 feet wide.

It's propelled by two tugs, one pushes and the other pulls.

Photo courtesy of NASA

"Of course they hit flood waters," said Tim Flores, the Core Stage Integration Manager.

Yes, about the only thing that slows this monstrous  watercraft down is mother nature.

"There was a lot of debris that was actually coming down the river. The river was rising. It's something we didn't think about before. All of a sudden we couldn't fit under bridges," said Flores.

Pumping in water to make Pegasus sit a little lower solved that problem.

On this trip, Pegasus delivered a structural test version of the massive SLS Rocket's engine section.

It's an important step in a painstaking, precise, exact test process in the journey to Mars and beyond.

"This is the beginning of a huge test campaign. There will be three other large test articles to make their way from New Orleans up the Mississippi and down the Tennessee to here over the next year," said Space Launch System Program Manager, John Honeycutt.

And to think the process of the core stage reaching Mach 23, that's over 17,000 miles per hour, begins with a slow trip on a river barge appropriately named Pegasus, after a flying horse that would not be distracted from its journey.