NASA prepares massive SLS lunar rockets for first manned Artemis missions

This artist’s rendering shows an aerial view of the takeoff of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. This Rocket Block 1 crew setup will send the first three Artemis missions to the Moon. Credit: NASA / MSFC

As the teams continue to prepare ">NasaSpace launch system from (SLS) rocket for its maiden flight with the launch of Artemis I, NASA and partners across the country have made great strides in building the rocket for Artemis II, the first manned Artemis mission. The team also builds and tests major parts for Artemis III, IV and V missions.

“The space launch system team not only builds a rocket, but manufactures several rockets for exploration missions and future SLS flights beyond the initial launch of Artemis,” said John Honeycutt, program manager. SLS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “The Artemis I mission is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will expand our presence on the Moon. The unprecedented power and capabilities of the SLS rocket will send missions farther and faster throughout the solar system. “

With its two solid rocket thrusters and four RS-25 engines, SLS produces over 8.8 million pounds of thrust to launch every Artemis mission beyond Earth orbit and to the Moon. The rocket includes some of the largest, most advanced, and reliable pieces of hardware ever built for space exploration.

Casting and assembling of the Artemis IV Booster Rocket Solid mission

Casting and assembly of the solid rocket propellant, shown to him, for the Artemis IV mission is underway at the Northrop Grumman plant in Promontory, Utah. The booster engines for Artemis II and Artemis III have completed casting and are ready to go to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where they will be assembled with other booster materials being prepared for missions. Credit: NASA

To power the agency’s next-generation distant space missions, SLS provides phased propulsion. On take-off, the central stage with its four RS-25 engines and the two boosters fire to propel SLS out of the launch pad into orbit. Once in orbit, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) provides the propulsion into space to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft and its crew on a precise trajectory to the moon.

The first rocket material – the ICPS – for Artemis II arrived in Florida on July 28, 2021. It is being finalized at the facilities of prime contractors Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) and will soon be delivered near the NASA Kennedy Space Center. . The ICPS fires its RL10 engine, supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, to send the Orion spacecraft to the moon. ULA is already building the Artemis III ICPS at its plant in Decatur, Alabama.

“The Space Launch System is a high performance launcher specially designed and rigorously tested to safely transport people, large cargoes and flagship science missions to distant space destinations,” said John Blevins, chief SLS engineer at Marshall. “From the start, the SLS rocket was designed to first send astronauts into space safely and, at the same time, evolve into an even more powerful configuration that could support a variety of missions.”

Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for Artemis II

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) – for Artemis II arrived on the space coast on July 28, 2021. It is being prepared at the facilities of prime contractors Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) and will soon be delivered to the nearby Kennedy Space Center. . The ICPS fires its RL10 engine, supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, to send the Orion spacecraft to the moon. ULA is already building the Artemis III ICPS at its plant in Decatur, Alabama. Credit: NASA

Each NASA center and over 1,000 different companies across America have helped build the Artemis I SLS rocket as well as the SLS rockets that will launch future missions. Boosters and RS-25 engines – the rocket’s main propulsion components – for the Artemis II and Artemis III missions are in the final stages of assembly. In Utah, teams at Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor for the boosters, have completed casting all supercharger engine segments for Artemis II and Artemis III and have started casting segments for Artemis IV. The five-segment solid rocket thruster is the largest and most powerful thruster ever built for spaceflight.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, the main contractor for the RS-25, is preparing the RS-25 engines for the next three SLS flights after Artemis I. The engines have been tested and will be integrated into their respective main stages closer to final assembly. The Artemis II engines are ready to be sent to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Plant in New Orleans, where they will be integrated into the SLS center stage. Artemis III engines are being prepared for flight at the Aerojet Rocketdyne facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and the company is already manufacturing engines for missions beyond Artemis IV.

Bill Nelson and Pam Melroy SLS Basic Stage Engines Section

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy take a look at the midstage engine section of the Space Launch System (SLS) that will be part of the Artemis IV Moon rocket. The center stage and its four RS-25 engines produce 2.2 million pounds of thrust to aid the launch mission. NASA and prime contractor Boeing are building base stages for three Artemis missions at the agency’s Michoud assembly plant in New Orleans. They have also started development work on the Exploration Upper Stage, a powerful rocket stage that can send even more payload to the Moon than the original rocket setup for the first three missions. Credit: NASA

Each 212-foot-high main stage is produced by Boeing in Michoud. The plant’s 2.2 million square feet of manufacturing space and state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment allow crews to build multiple rocket stages at once. Currently, NASA and Boeing, the prime contractor for the SLS center stage, are building main stages for Artemis II, Artemis III and Artemis IV in Michoud. In addition to the center stage, manufacturing at Michoud has started on test items for the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) which will power the Rocket’s Block IB configuration from the Artemis IV mission.

“New tooling has been installed at Michoud to build the upper exploration stage at the same time as the main stages are produced,” said Steve Wofford, NASA director for the SLS Block IB effort. The EUS will send 83,000 pounds to the moon, which is 40% more payload in orbit than the ICPS used in early Artemis missions, and 70% more than any existing rocket.

Teledyne Brown Engineering teams in Huntsville, Alabama and Marshall manufacture the Cone-Shaped Launcher Stage Adapters and Orion Stage Adapters for Artemis II and Artemis III. The adapters serve as essential connection points for the heart and ICPS and Orion spacecraft. For missions beyond Artemis III, the Universal Stage Adapter will connect the EUS to the Orion spacecraft and act as a payload storage compartment, accommodating large payloads, such as logistics modules or other exploration spaceships. Engineers at RUAG Space USA completed panels for a universal stage adapter test item and delivered the panels to Dynetics in Huntsville, Alabama, the prime contractor for the adapter, which assembles the test item. for testing later in 2022.

With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration on the Moon for human missions to ">March. NASA’s SLS and Orion spacecraft, along with the Human Landing System and Moon Orbiting Gateway, form NASA’s foundation for deep space exploration.

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