The first segment for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), a behemoth booster designed to send astronauts on expeditions into deep space, has arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) was transported from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it had been undergoing final testing and checkout since arriving in February, to the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy. The ICPS will be located at the very top of the SLS, just below the Orion capsule.

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NASA ICPS arrives at Kennedy Space Centre

Source: NASA/KSC

During Exploration Mission-1, NASA’s first test mission of the SLS rocket and Orion, the ICPS, filled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, will give Orion the big in-space push needed to fly beyond the moon before returning to Earth over the course of about a three-week mission.

The first flight will not have humans aboard but it paves the way for future missions with astronauts. Ultimately, it will help NASA prepare for missions to the Red Planet.

Mike Sarafin, Exploration Mission-1 Mission Manager at NASA Headquarters in Washingston, said, “This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known. It will blaze a trail that people will follow on the next Orion flight, pushing the edges of the envelope to prepare for that mission.”

The ICPS was designed and built by ULA in Decatur, Alabama, and Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama. The propulsion stage will be cleaned and maintained and remain in the high bay at the Space Station Processing Facility until it is moved to the VAB when it is time for stacking operations.

The SLS, the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built, and Orion is expected to blast off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s modernised spaceport at Kennedy Space Centre in 2019.