NASA’s largest rocket stage ever built is slowly squeezed into KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building

Similar to the space shuttle external tank, the SLS core stage is coated in bright orange insulation and serves as the backbone of the rocket.

Orlando, Fla. — A rocket component that will eventually launch astronauts back to the Moon and to Mars has arrived at Kennedy Space Center’s massive assembly building.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) core stage was carefully removed from a barge after making the 900+ mile ocean journey from a testing facility in south Mississippi to Florida’s Space Coast.

Boeing was the prime contractor for the SLS core stage.

“We haven’t seen a vehicle like this here since the 70s,” said Boeing SLS Engineer Kristine Ramos as the rocket emerged from the sheltered barge.

The massive Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo astronauts to the surface of the Moon has officially been replaced and, frankly, beefed up.

At 212-feet-tall and weighing in at over 188,000 pounds, NASA calls it “the world’s tallest and most powerful rocket stage.”

Similar to the space shuttle external tank, the SLS core stage is coated in bright orange insulation and serves as the backbone of the rocket.

Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, crews will attach several cranes to move the rocket upright.

Over the next several months, two solid rocket boosters (SRBs) will be integrated with the core’s engine section.

“We’ll mate it with the SRB stack on the mobile launcher and we’ll do a lot of integrated tests and checkouts inside the VAB,” said SLS Core Stage Operations Project Engineer Ken Jacobs.

On top, NASA’s crew vehicle named Orion will eventually be secured above the core stage.

With SLS and Orion mated, the agency will debut the completed human spaceflight vehicle for its mission called Artemis 1.

An uncrewed test launch could happen in early 2022.


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