For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
MICHOUD ASSEMBLY FACILITY, LA – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine declared assembly completion of the 1st core stage of the agency’s mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket during the ‘Artemis Day’ special event on Monday, Dec. 9, at the agencies huge Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Bridenstine proudly showed off the first fully assembled, 212-foot-tall core stage that was manufactured at America’s ‘rocket factory’ at Michoud – to an exuberant gathering of contractors and space workers, NASA personal and officials, and the media.
“Today we announce core stage complete for the SLS rocket, the most powerful rocket ever built in human history,” NASA Administrator Bridenstine said at NASA’s Artemis Day event, Dec. 9.
Launch of the first liquid-fueled SLS on the uncrewed Artemis 1 test flight with the Orion deep space capsule around the Moon could take place as soon as late 2020 but more likely in early 2021, Bridenstine indicated.
The overall goal is to build the megarockets for NASA’s Artemis moon exploration program that will enable landing US astronauts including the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024 at the lunar south pole.
“Our goal is to launch the first woman and the next man to the south pole of the moon in 2024,” Bridenstine said.
Space UpClose attended Artemis Day. Enjoy our UpClose views of Artemis hardware at NASA Michoud and NASA Stennis on Dec. 9 and 10, 2019.
This first SLS core stage was still enveloped in scaffolding as workers continued toiling away throughout ‘Artemis Day’ to complete functional testing before it is shipped around years end a short distance away to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi aboard the Pegasus barge.
At Stennis the core stage will undergo final tests including a wet dress rehearsal fueling test to eventually carry out the critical ‘green run’ hot fire testing of the four RS-25 engines installed at the base.
“We are making significant progress! By the end of the year we’re going to be moving it out of the Michoud Assembly Facility,” Bridenstine elaborated.
“We are going to take it to the Stennis Space Center. We are going to do a ‘green run’ test. We are going to prove its capabilities. Then we will get it to the Cape.”
At the Cape SLS core stage will be integrated with its twin solid rocket boosters and Orion crew vehicle stack.
SLS will liftoff from Launch Complex-39B on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“Then we will be ready to launch American astronauts to the Moon again.”
The SLS core stage, built at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, is the largest rocket stage the agency has built since the Saturn V that sent Apollo astronauts to the Moon.
“This time we will go to the Moon with a purpose of learning how to live and work on another world. So we can take that knowledge and information to Mars.”
“Think of it as NASA’s Christmas present to America.”
“Happy Artemis Day,” says Bridenstine.
Watch this NASA Highlights video from Artemis Day
Video Caption: Highlighting the Most Powerful Rocket Ever Built at Artemis Day: Media and social media followers got an up-close look at the completed core stage of our powerful new Space Launch System rocket during “Artemis Day,” Dec. 9, 2019, at our Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke in front of the rocket stage which will power the first Artemis flight to the Moon, as we prepare to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Credit: NASA
Look close and you see me at two points in the video at 9 and 29 seconds.
“The completion of the SLS core stage is a major milestone and a testament to American enterprise and ingenuity,” said Bridenstine. “With more than 1,100 large and small businesses in 44 states contributing to the design and assembly, the SLS rocket will empower America to achieve the Artemis program’s goal of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.”
The final work at Michoud involved installing all 4 RS-25 engines and connecting all the propulsion and avionics systems this fall.
The multistep engine attachment work was led by lead engine contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne in coordination and collaboration with NASA and SLS lead contractor Boeing.
The fourth and final RS-25 engine integration process was completed on Nov. 6, just one day after structurally mating the third engine.
Altogether the core stage will produce a combined 2 million pounds of thrust powered by the four RS-25 engines fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
The RS-25 engines along with two side mounted solid rocket boosters provide the necessary thrust for the SLS rocket to reach space and propel the Orion deep space capsule to the Moon.
The core stage Green Run tests are the final test series ahead of the Artemis I launch. The series will mark the first full test of the entire SLS core stage, including the stage’s extensive propulsion, avionics and flight software systems, according to NASA.
Now that all the propulsion and avionics systems efforts are completed, engineers are conducting a full integrated functional systems test of flight computers, avionics and electrical systems that run throughout the 212-foot-tall core stage.
The functional tests last several weeks to thoroughly check out the engine attachment work to confirm it was accomplished correctly by performing additional testing on all the avionics and electrical systems.
This functional testing is the first time all the flight avionics systems will be tested together to ensure the systems communicate with each other and will perform properly to control the rocket’s flight.
Upon completion of the functional testing around the end of the year NASA’s Pegasus barge will transport the completed core stage from Michoud to Stennis for the Green Run test series in 2020.
It is expected to arrive at KSC aboard Pegasus sometime around the second half of next year in 2020 to prepare for the Artemis 1 launch.
SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission. SLS, Orion, and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration and the Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, according to NASA.
Watch Ken’s continuing reports onsite for live reporting of SLS and the upcoming Starliner OFT mission at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events
Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Dec 15/17/19: 7 PM, Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “Boeing Starliner Launches to ISS.” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale