Picture of Space Launch System taking off.

Space Launch System

NASA’s Space Launch System is the only rocket capable of carrying crew and large cargo to deep space in a single launch. Featuring the Boeing-built Core Stage, SLS successfully launched as part of the Artemis I Mission on November 16, 2022. Work has already begun on the Exploration Upper Stage, the replacement for the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage for Artemis IV and beyond.

Rocket to the Moon, Mars and Beyond

Boeing people and products have powered giant leaps in human space exploration over the past six decades. Now, with the NASA Artemis program — named after Apollo’s twin sister — Boeing will be part of landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and the sustainable exploration of more of the lunar surface than ever before. What NASA and its commercial and international partners learn on and around the Moon will enable astronauts to take the next giant leap — all the way to Mars. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the only proven deep-space optimized, super-heavy lift rocket built to carry astronauts and cargo farther and faster than any rocket in history.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the design, development, test and production of the SLS core stage, upper stage and flight avionics suite. On November 16, 2022, the SLS rocket successfully launched as part of the Artemis I Mission, which served as an uncrewed test flight to validate the rocket components and systems in preparation for future crewed missions. Boeing is currently building the core stages for Artemis II, III and IV as well as the first Exploration Upper Stage, which will replace the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) in future Artemis missions.

Click the + icons to learn more about the different components that form the Space Launch System.

Built by Boeing Built by non-Boeing supplier

Orion Spacecraft

Launched on SLS, the Orion spacecraft will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry up to four crew members to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during multiweek missions and provide a safe reentry to Earth from deep space return velocities. It’s composed of a crew module, service module and launch abort system.

Built by Lockheed Martin | NASA/Radislav Sinyak photo


The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for SLS Block 1 is the initial configuration that can deliver 27 metric tons of payload to the moon. Based on the proven Delta Cryogenic Second Stage and powered by one Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine, ICPS will propel an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to fly beyond the moon and back on the Artemis I mission.

Built by United Launch Alliance and Boeing | NASA/Ben Smegelsky photo


The Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter (LVSA) connects the Block 1 core stage to the upper stage while providing structural, electrical and communication paths. It separates the core stage from the second stage that includes astronauts in the Orion crew vehicle. The cone-shaped adapter is roughly 30 feet in diameter by 30 feet tall. The LVSA consists of 16 aluminum-lithium 2195 alloy panels.

Built by Teledyne Brown Engineering | NASA/Fred Deaton photo

Forward Skirt

As the brains of SLS, the forward skirt is responsible for the rocket reaching its destination. It houses flight computers, cameras and avionics — the routers, processors, power, other boxes and software that control stage functions and communications. Along with the liquid oxygen tank and the intertank, it makes up the top half of the core stage.

Built by Boeing | NASA/Eric Bordelon photo

LOX Tank

The liquid oxygen (LOX) tank holds 196,000 gallons (742,000 liters) of liquid oxygen cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit. Its thermal foam coating protects it from extreme temperatures — the cold of the propellants and the heat of friction. A test article at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in 2020 was subjected to 170% maximum predicted flight loads — far beyond the pressures of liftoff and launch — before rupturing and spilling 197,000 gallons (746,000 liters) of water across the test stand.

Built by Boeing | NASA photo


Joining the LH2 and LOX tanks, the intertank houses avionics and electronics that will control the rocket in flight. It also anchors two massive solid rocket boosters. The avionics units on the SLS core stage work with the flight software to perform various functions during the first eight minutes of flight. Some control the navigation, some communicate with the Orion spacecraft and some control how the engines perform. The intertank makes up the top half of the core stage, along with the LOX tank and forward skirt.

Built by Boeing | NASA/Jude Guidry photo

Solid Rocket Boosters

The largest human-rated solid rocket boosters ever built for flight, the SLS twin boosters stand 17 stories tall and burn about six tons of propellant every second. Each booster generates more thrust than 14 four-engine jumbo commercial airliners. Together, the SLS twin boosters provide more than 75% of the total thrust at launch.

Built by Northrop Grumman | NASA/Scott Mohrman photo

LH2 Tank

The liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank comprises two-thirds of the core stage, weighs 150,000 pounds (68,000 kilograms) and holds 537,000 gallons (2 million liters) of liquid hydrogen cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermal foam keeps the LH2 at the right temperature and pressure. A test article structurally identical to the flight hardware at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in 2019 withstood more than 260% of expected flight loads over five hours before buckling.

Built by Boeing | NASA/MAF/Steven Seipel photo

Engine Section

In addition to its miles of cabling and hundreds of sensors, the engine section is a crucial attachment point for the four RS-25 engines that work with two solid rocket boosters to produce a combined 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Avionics here steer the engines, too. It was built vertically and flipped to horizontally to connect with the LH2 tank.

Built by Boeing | NASA photo

RS-25 Engines

Four RS-25 engines will deliver more than 2 million pounds of thrust at altitude. Combined with two five-segment solid rocket boosters, the propulsion system will give SLS about 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch — more lift than any current rocket and 15% more than the Saturn V. An RS-25 variant is under production for Artemis missions past the first four.

Built by Aerojet Rocketdyne | Aerojet Rocketdyne photo

The Next Mission

SLS will launch a permanent human presence in deep space. Its flexibility and evolvability will support diverse exploration, science and security missions.

During the Artemis II mission, SLS will fly in the Block 1 configuration and launch the first crewed Orion spacecraft on a flight path around the Moon carrying the first female and person of color to lunar orbit!

Additional missions are planned with the SLS Block 1B configuration – equipped with the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS). The EUS will provide NASA with a fully human-rated stage that enables deep space exploration with meaningful payload capabilities and is anticipated to allow 40 percent more payload to the Moon compared to the SLS Block 1 configuration.

Boeing is producing flight hardware for Artemis II and beyond.

Artemis II Infographic

Feature Stories

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NASA honors Boeing on the first anniversary of successful Artemis I launch.

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Linking up: Connecting Artemis crew, ground and spacecraft

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Uplink capabilities on moon rocket’s Exploration Upper Stage will enable teams to complete mission-critical tasks.

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Core Stage 2: Engine installation complete

Core Stage 2: Engine installation complete

October 13, 2023 in Space, Technology

Engineers install the four RS-25 rocket engines to Core Stage 2 for next moon mission.

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Boeing team uses laser to enhance Space Launch System production.

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NASA Astronaut Victor Glover provides encouraging remarks to Boeing Exploration Systems employees during the Artemis II fireside chat. (Photo Credit: Boeing/Leslie Thomson)

Moon talk: NASA astronaut speaks to Boeing team

August 10, 2023 in Space, Technology

Teammates video chat with astronaut who will fly to the moon on Artemis II mission.

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Teams from Boeing partner United Launch Alliance prep Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage for delivery.

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Exploration Upper Stage

Experts weigh in: 3 ways new spacecraft changes space travel

July 13, 2023 in Space, Technology

The Exploration Upper Stage’s safety, functionality and co-manifested capability pushes the boundaries of exploration.

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While the Artemis II crew was just announced, Boeing teams are already preparing for when the crew will head much further into space than the moon.

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(left to right): NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, Reid Wiseman (seated), Victor Glover, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen pose in flight suits.

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The Artemis II mission will send humankind to the moon for the first time in 50 years.

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Animation of Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) in orbit

Getting to Mars: New upper stage will give SLS a boost

March 30, 2023 in Space and Technology

The Boeing-built Exploration Upper Stage will power NASA’s Space Launch System on its first trip to Mars.

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The Boeing team at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans completes the joining of the fifth and final section of the Core Stage 2 structure on March 17.

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The Boeing team at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans completes the joining of the fifth and final section of the Core Stage 2 structure on March 17.

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Boeing and NASA leaders cut the ceremonial ribbon for the new Exploration Upper Stage Gray Box Area at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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A new production area opens for the new upper stage that will send Artemis crew and cargo into deep space.

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Sunday’s splashdown of the Artemis I Orion spacecraft

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Boeing-built moon rocket launched Orion on a precise path around the moon and back with objectives achieved.

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The Boeing-built Space Launch System rocket met or exceeded all expectations.

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Apollo 17 launched 50 years ago, marking the final mission in the storied human spaceflight program.

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One of Orion’s views of Earth’s Moon during its flyaround maneuver. (NASA photo)

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Artemis I spacecraft reaches lunar orbit with power from Space Launch System and boost from upper stage.

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Artemis sends mini satellites on deep-space missions

November 21, 2022 in Space

The 10 satellites, called CubeSats, deployed from the upper stage of the rocket to conduct experiments.

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The Space Launch System rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 16 to begin the Artemis I mission.

Liftoff! Space Launch System powers historic lunar mission

November 16, 2022 in Space

Boeing-built rocket launches Orion spacecraft on flight test to orbit the Moon.

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The Space Launch System rocket stands tall at the launch pad as it awaits the next launch attempt.

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November 14, 2022 in Space

Launch window for NASA’s Artemis I uncrewed moon mission opens at 1:04 a.m. ET on Nov. 16.

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We reflect on the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s historic “We choose to go to the moon” speech. 

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Artemis rocket with a Space Launch System core stage and exploration upper stage

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NASA plans lunar exploration development throughout Artemis program.

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Engineering teams declare the uncrewed mission ready for its Aug. 29 launch to orbit the moon.

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How Boeing teams are taking us to deep space

August 18, 2022 in Space

SLS Core Stage Takes Central Role in Lunar Return Mission

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Artemis I Rocket Makes Final Move Ahead of Launch

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The Artemis I rocket and spacecraft stand again at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as the mission’s launch and support teams lock down requirements ahead of a liftoff targeted for Aug. 29.

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3..2..1.. Liftoff! Now what for the core stage?

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Every second counts in an 8.5-minute mission. Learn about the Space Launch System’s core stage journey after liftoff.

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How the team at Kennedy Space Center is preparing America’s Rocket for its inaugural launch

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Gods and Goddesses: NASA’s heavy lift rocket programs

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Though not much is seen beyond wreaths of mist from boiling-off propellants, during WDR, 733,000 gallons (2.8 million liters) of cryogenic propellant will be loaded into the orange, Boeing-built, Space Launch System core stage.

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Space Launch System Customer

U.S. Flag and Artemis logo.

NASA is Boeing’s customer for the core stage, upper stages and flight avionics of Space Launch System — America’s rocket — which will support the Artemis moon missions and make the next generation of human spaceflight possible.

Boeing is committed to NASA’s Artemis program and to the National Space Council’s vision for continued American leadership and international partnerships in space.

The Space Launch System’s unique capabilities mean that it can perform challenging science, national security, and exploration missions for a broad scope of potential customers. Boeing is not interested in participating in the National Security Space Launch Phase 3 procurement. Boeing remains proud of its role in the SLS program and excited about SLS’s potential.

The Boeing SLS Program is managed out of the company’s Space and Launch division in Huntsville, Alabama, and employs Boeing’s workforce in Huntsville, at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and at other Boeing sites and with suppliers across the country. The Boeing Exploration Launch Systems office supports NASA on strategy and policy for Space Exploration programs procured by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.