NASA’s Space Launch System team fully stacked three hardware elements together May 24 at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility to form the top of the rocket’s core stage for the Artemis II mission. NASA and core stage prime contractor Boeing connected the forward skirt with the liquid oxygen tank and intertank flight hardware.
Teams had previously stacked the liquid oxygen tank and intertank April 28. The joining of the three structures together is the first major assembly of core stage hardware for Artemis II, the first crewed Artemis mission and second flight of the SLS rocket. Next, technicians will work to complete outfitting and integrating the systems within the upper structure.
At 66 feet tall, the upper part of the stage is just a fraction of the entire core stage. The fully assembled, 212-foot-tall rocket stage consists of five hardware elements, including two liquid propellant tanks and four RS-25 engines. The liquid oxygen tank in the upper portion of the stage will hold 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, the forward skirt and intertank house avionics, flight computer, and electronic systems for the rocket stage. Together, the core stage and its four RS-25 engines will provide more than 2 million pounds of thrust to help send Artemis II astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit to lunar orbit.
With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and establish sustainable exploration in preparation for missions to Mars. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.