NASA has achieved a significant milestone in manufacturing the first large, complex core stage that will help power the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on upcoming missions to the Moon.
The space agency and lead contractor Boeing have assembled four-fifths of the massive core stage, which will store liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, needed to launch SLS and the Orion spacecraft on their first mission to the Moon: Artemis 1.
The Artemis programme will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024 and develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028.
The programme takes its name from the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
At approximately 190 feet, about the size of 12 cars parked end-to-end, the stage in its current configuration is the largest rocket stage the agency has built since the Saturn V stages that first sent humans to the Moon nearly 50 years ago.
The completed core stage, which includes two propellent tanks as well as four RS-25 engines, will tower at 212 feet. It will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
This stage, along with the twin five-segment solid rocket boosters, will produce the majority of the power to senf the SLS and Orion to space.
“Building and assembling this massive integrated propulsion and avionics stage for the world’s most powerful rocket, the only launch vehicle that can return astronauts to the Moon, is an engineering feat,” said Julie Bassler, SLS Stages Manager.
“To manufacture the Space Launch System, we are working with more than 1,000 companies across the country. It’s truly America’s rocket.”
This significant programme milestone comes after crews completed the second of three major activities to join the liquid hydrogen fuel tank to the upper part of the core stage.
The upper part is made up of three previously connected large structures: the forward skirt that houses the rocket’s flight computers, the liquid oxygen propellant tank and the intertank that holds more avionics and attaches the rocket’s powerful boosters.
Technicians horizontally connected the liquid hydrogen tank to the intertank using 360 bolts.
NASA and Boeing will now complete outfitting the engine section before integrating it, along with the four RS-25 engines, to the rest of the stage, completed the immense core stage in its entirety.
This July marks 50 years since man first landed on the Moon, and gasworld pays homage to this truly incredible moment for Mankind, as well as the amazing feats of science, engineering and industrial gas application, in a celebratory feature in the upcoming July issues of both gasworld and gasworld US.
As Adam Swanger, Research Engineer at NASA’s Cyogenic Test Laboratory, tells gasworld in the exclusive interview: “Liquefied gases were central to the Moon missions. To me, a kind of equivalent question would be: how important is uranium, or some other radioactive material, to a nuclear reactor or a nuclear power plant? Without it, there is no reason for it to exist or it cannot exist. Without liquid oxygen you don’t have human space flight.”