The main stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is positioned between the two secondary thrusters. A time-lapse video shows the various stages of this delicate process that took place at the agency’s largest facility, the Vehicle Assembly Building in Florida (USA), which was adapted to house the giant rocket. We see the massive 61-meter-high torso, built by Boeing, sliding into one of the building’s rooms, before rotating horizontally and then descending between the two thrusters. Next step: the complete assembly of the Orion capsule (contributed by Airbus and Ariane Group) on the main stage of the rocket before it reaches the Kennedy Space Center for dynamic testing. At the end of 2021, the Space Launch System is expected to carry out the first mission of the Artemis program, which aims to send two astronauts to the Moon by 2024.
The most powerful futuristic missile in the world
The central floor of the SLS is like a backbone. It is he who will provide the missile with a large part of its thrust. With a thrust of 3,800 tons, the rocket will be NASA’s most powerful rocket since the Saturn 5, the giant launcher that took Americans to the Moon in 1969 and several times thereafter. From top to bottom, the main stage of the SLS consists of: a ring representing the “brain” of the missile (flight computer, cameras, electronic equipment); Liquid oxygen tank is an intermediate part for connecting tanks and other electronic systems; A liquid hydrogen tank and finally four RS-25 engines.
Moon target 2021
Powered by the SLS, Orion will leave a drone on board to reach lunar orbit later this year. During this flight, the capsule must reach 100 kilometers from the moon to collect data for subsequent missions, this time accompanied by the astronauts. After a flight of about three weeks, Orion is expected to land in the waters off the California coast.
After the first failed test in January 2021, NASA passed the main stage of static fire tests two months later. To many observers, the goal of the Artemis program, which Donald Trump launched by surprise in 2017, seems difficult to achieve, given the deadlines. In fact, it is expected to be very expensive for American taxpayers. In May 2021, NASA submitted a request to Congress for an extension of $1.6 billion, despite the initial budget of $21 billion.