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NASA assembling core of the Space Launch System rocket

Artist concept of the Block 1 SLS configuration in flight. The SLS is an advanced, heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for science and human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. (NASA/MSFC/Released)

NASA says it has begun joining two large pieces of the core stage of its first Space Launch System rocket. When this is complete, lead contractor Boeing says 80 percent of the 212-foot long core will be connected.

The current phase involves joining the large liquid hydrogen fuel tank to the completed Forward Section, which is made up of the Forward Skirt, liquid oxygen tank and Intertank.

To make the join, crews with lead contractor Boeing moved the liquid hydrogen tank to the final assembly area of the Michoud Assembly Facility outside New Orleans where the Forward Section was waiting. When the two are joined, the partial core will be 190 feet long.

Then, crews will add the engine stage with its four RS-25 engines to complete the core later this summer, Boeing said. It will be the largest rocket NASA has built since the Saturn V.

SLS and an uncrewed Orion capsule will take off on the first mission of NASA’s newly renamed Artemis program in 2020, NASA hopes. That will keep alive the Trump administration plan to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024.

SLS is being managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. It accounts for nearly 65 percent of Marshall’s estimated at $5.7 billion national economic impact and includes contractors in 44 states.


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