program and repurposed for the Space Launch System; and a forward skirt at the top that contains the “brains” of the rocket (flight computers, cameras DECEMBER 2016 | 17 to pave the way for deep space exploration, while the Orion will be put in orbit around the moon at a distance where deep space communication and navigation systems can be tested. NASA expects the Space Launch System will send astronauts into deep space for the first time between 2021 and 2023, lofting a Mars touchdown trip as soon as the 2030s. Much of this activity will originate in east New Orleans at Michoud. “It’s the coolest program ever and that’s why I’m here,” said Karen Branson, Boeing quality senior manager. “It’s an all-new dawn. We’ve spent all of our time in low-Earth orbit—let’s find out what’s out there.” At the Louisiana rocket factory, which borders a meandering intercoastal waterway that flows into the Mississippi River, Boeing employees prepare the Space Launch System core stage for that profound first step. This portion of the spacecraft consists of stacked liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks that carry the fuel; an intertank connector; a bottom section that will hold four RS-25 engines, originally made for the space shuttle Photo: Leo Williams, left, Vertical Assembly Center weld manager, and Amanda Gertjejansen, industrial engineer, confer beside a liquid hydrogen tank, the largest section of the Space Launch System, at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, in New Orleans.
Frontiers December 2016 Issue
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