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NASA connects final of five major sections of SLS rocket

(Photo: NASA)

The last of five major sections for the Boeing-built Space Launch System rocket are now connected.

Engineers at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure.

“NASA has achieved a historic first milestone by completing the final join of the core stage structure for NASA’s Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket,” said Julie Bassler, the NASA SLS stages manager. “Now, to complete the stage, NASA will add the four RS-25 engines and complete the final integrated avionics and propulsion functional tests. This is an exciting time as we finish the first-time production of the complex core stage that will provide the power to send the Artemis I mission to the Moon.”

Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the liquid hydrogen propellant tank last week.

The engine section is located at the bottom of the core stage and is one of the most complicated pieces of hardware for the SLS rocket.

The engine section will hold four RS-25 rocket motors and two solid rocket boosters that produce a combined 8.8 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I to space.

In addition, the engine section includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the stage’s two liquid propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.

This fall, NASA will work with core stage lead contractor, Boeing, to attach the four RS-25 engines and connect them to the main propulsion systems inside the engine section.

“Boeing expects to complete final assembly of the Artemis I core stage in December,” said Jennifer Boland-Masterson, Boeing operations director at MAF. “After we deliver the stage, NASA will transport it on the agency’s Pegasus barge from Michoud to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for Green Run testing. Our team here at Michoud will continue work with NASA to build, outfit and assemble the core stage for Artemis II, the first mission that will send astronauts to orbit the Moon. Lessons learned and innovations developed in building the first core stage are making the second one progress much faster.”

The SLS will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon from Cape Canaveral, Florida, ahead of NASA missions to Mars.

The SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built and the only one capable of sending astronauts, the Orion capsule, and heavy cargo to the Moon in a single mission.

“NASA and our contractor teams are making tremendous progress on every aspect of manufacturing, assembling and testing the complex systems needed to land American astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024,” Bassler said. “I am confident this hard work will result in a rocket that can provide the backbone for deep space transportation to the Moon and ultimately to Mars.”

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