Feature Story

Boeing prepares to build the biggest rocket with the biggest tools

Artist illustration of the Vertical Weld Center (NASA/MAF)

NASA illustration

Artist illustration of the Vertical Weld Center (NASA/MAF)

When you're building the world's largest rocket, the tools are going to be massive. That includes the recently unveiled Vertical Weld Center which is three stories tall and weighs 150 tons.

In a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 21 at the Michoud facility in New Orleans, Boeing unveiled the Vertical Weld Center. Five huge welding tools were designed to weld together pieces of the SLS core stage. The core stage is the massive cylinder that will propel humans beyond Earth in a 321 foot, 5.5 million pound rocket.

Boeing employees at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility are already welding on the tooling taking shape there, conducting the testing and qualification required to begin production on the nation’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle -- the Space Launch System (SLS). The launch date is scheduled for 2017.

NASA contracted with Boeing to design, develop, build and test the core stages and avionics. Boeing has met – and exceeded – every one of its milestone commitments since the contract award in 2011.