More than a Rocket

Progress report on Space Launch System elements for Artemis-2 and beyond

August 08, 2019 in Space

Over the past month, Boeing’s work on the core stage of NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has advanced to within weeks of final element join, leading to a year-end delivery for the major Green Run firing test – and after that, launch of the Artemis-1 mission around the moon.

Milestones are coming closer together across production of America’s advanced launch system:

  • Structural testing is in its final phases; a Liquid Oxygen Tank was the system’s final major test article to be loaded into the massive Marshall Space Flight Center test stands in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • At Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, SLS Core Stage 1’s engine section is being tested and prepared for integration with the other four-fifths of the core stage. That milestone will be followed by installation of the rocket’s recently delivered Aerojet Rocketdyne engines later this year.
  • In a nearby high bay at Michoud, the last element of Core Stage 2 is being welded ahead of the addition of electrical and propulsion systems. The work is proceeding far more quickly than on the first core stage, thanks to an established production system and lessons learned from building and testing its predecessor. Like Core Stage 1, Core Stage 2 will be incrementally tested throughout the build cycle to ensure functionality and reliability – in full awareness that this is the rocket that will lift a crew to orbit the moon for Artemis-2.
  • The first two SLS rockets will be topped with Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stages to move the Orion capsule out of Earth’s orbit and to the moon. An even more powerful system, the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), is needed for the heavy-payload moon and Mars missions that will follow Artemis-2. The EUS will be capable of sending multiple heavy payload elements on a direct path to deep space without interim stops – making it the best option for astronaut safety and for scientific discovery. Work on the EUS is approaching critical design review, while Boeing teams at Michoud are preparing the factory to begin production.