Boeing

Space Launch System

Space Launch System

NASA’s Space Launch System is the most powerful rocket ever built, the backbone for a permanent human presence in deep space. Its first Boeing-built core stage is undergoing a series of major tests known as Green Run.

Rocket to the Moon, Mars and Beyond

Boeing people and products have powered giant leaps in human space exploration over the past five decades. Now, with the NASA Artemis program — named after Apollo’s twin sister — Boeing will be part of landing the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024 and the sustainable exploration of more of the lunar surface than ever before. What NASA and its commercial and international partners learn on and around the moon will enable astronauts to take the next giant leap — all the way to Mars. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the heavy-lift rocket that will get us there.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the design, development, test and production of the launch vehicle core stage and upper stages, as well as development of the flight avionics suite. The Boeing-built core stage for the Artemis I mission is complete and undergoing a series of tests known as Green Run at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. All the other elements have been delivered to Kennedy Space Center in Florida and are being prepared for integration. Meanwhile, Boeing is building the core stages for Artemis II and III.

Click the + icons to learn more about the different components that form the Space Launch System.

Built by Boeing Built by non-Boeing supplier

Orion Spacecraft

Launched on SLS, the Orion spacecraft will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry up to four crew members to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during multiweek missions and provide a safe reentry to Earth from deep space return velocities. It’s composed of a crew module, service module and launch abort system.

Built by Lockheed Martin | NASA/Radislav Sinyak photo

ICPS

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System (ICPS) for SLS Block 1 is the initial configuration that can deliver 27 metric tons of payload to the moon. Based on the proven Delta Cryogenic Second Stage and powered by one Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine, ICPS will propel an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to fly beyond the moon and back on the Artemis I mission.

Built by United Launch Alliance and Boeing | NASA/Ben Smegelsky photo

LVSA

The Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter (LVSA) connects the Block 1 core stage to the upper stage while providing structural, electrical and communication paths. It separates the core stage from the second stage that includes astronauts in the Orion crew vehicle. The cone-shaped adapter is roughly 30 feet in diameter by 30 feet tall. The LVSA consists of 16 aluminum-lithium 2195 alloy panels.

Built by Teledyne Brown Engineering | NASA/Fred Deaton photo

Forward Skirt

As the brains of SLS, the forward skirt is responsible for the rocket reaching its destination. It houses flight computers, cameras and avionics — the routers, processors, power, other boxes and software that control stage functions and communications. Along with the liquid oxygen tank and the intertank, it makes up the top half of the core stage.

Built by Boeing | NASA/Eric Bordelon photo

LOX Tank

The liquid oxygen (LOX) tank holds 196,000 gallons (742,000 liters) of liquid oxygen cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit. Its thermal foam coating protects it from extreme temperatures — the cold of the propellants and the heat of friction. A test article at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in 2020 was subjected to 170% maximum predicted flight loads — far beyond the pressures of liftoff and launch — before rupturing and spilling 197,000 gallons (746,000 liters) of water across the test stand.

Built by Boeing | NASA photo

Intertank

Joining the LH2 and LOX tanks, the intertank houses avionics and electronics that will control the rocket in flight. It also anchors two massive solid rocket boosters. The avionics units on the SLS core stage work with the flight software to perform various functions during the first eight minutes of flight. Some control the navigation, some communicate with the Orion spacecraft and some control how the engines perform. The intertank makes up the top half of the core stage, along with the LOX tank and forward skirt.

Built by Boeing | NASA/Jude Guidry photo

Solid Rocket Boosters

The largest human-rated solid rocket boosters ever built for flight, the SLS twin boosters stand 17 stories tall and burn about six tons of propellant every second. Each booster generates more thrust than 14 four-engine jumbo commercial airliners. Together, the SLS twin boosters provide more than 75% of the total thrust at launch.

Built by Northrop Grumman | NASA/Scott Mohrman photo

LH2 Tank

The liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank comprises two-thirds of the core stage, weighs 150,000 pounds (68,000 kilograms) and holds 537,000 gallons (2 million liters) of liquid hydrogen cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermal foam keeps the LH2 at the right temperature and pressure. A test article structurally identical to the flight hardware at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in 2019 withstood more than 260% of expected flight loads over five hours before buckling.

Built by Boeing | NASA/MAF/Steven Seipel photo

Engine Section

In addition to its miles of cabling and hundreds of sensors, the engine section is a crucial attachment point for the four RS-25 engines that work with two solid rocket boosters to produce a combined 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Avionics here steer the engines, too. It was built vertically and flipped to horizontally to connect with the LH2 tank.

Built by Boeing | NASA photo

RS-25 Engines

Four RS-25 engines will deliver more than 2 million pounds of thrust at altitude. Combined with two five-segment solid rocket boosters, the propulsion system will give SLS about 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch — more lift than any current rocket and 15% more than the Saturn V. An RS-25 variant is under production for Artemis missions past the first four.

Built by Aerojet Rocketdyne | Aerojet Rocketdyne photo

Feature Stories

Aerial view of B-2 test stand at Stennis with SLS core stage

SLS Green Run test team perseveres through hurricanes, technical challenges

November 24, 2020 in Space

After a valve repair, the Space Launch System core stage is moving forward to wet dress rehearsal and hot fire.

Learn More
Brandon Burroughs standing in front of Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly building with Space Launch System pathfinder.

Happy Trails: Engineers' innovation and collaboration blaze paths to success

November 23, 2020 in Space

Space Launch System program engineers receive Space Flight Awareness Trailblazer awards for their work toward launch.

Learn More
Aim high: Space Launch System design engineer advocates for human spaceflight

Aim high: Space Launch System design engineer advocates for human spaceflight

October 9, 2020 in Space

Kristine Ramos recognized with Florida State University’s highest alumni honor.

Learn More
Counting down: Artemis I SLS core stage passes Green Run Test 6

Counting down: Artemis I SLS core stage passes Green Run Test 6

October 5, 2020 in Space

This latest Space Launch System test will be followed by two more, fueling and hot-fire, to complete the series.

Learn More
Engine-eering: Artemis I SLS core stage completes Green Run test 5

Engine-eering: Artemis I SLS core stage completes Green Run test 5

September 15, 2020 in Space

Test 5 of 8 checks ability to steer moon rocket’s 4 RS-25 engines.

Learn More
Four Good: 1st SLS core stage completes Green Run test 4

Four Good: 1st SLS core stage completes Green Run test 4

August 14, 2020 in Space, Technology

Test of main propulsion system components continues Artemis I stage’s progress toward hot-fire.

Learn More
The test team oversaw avionics power-on of the first SLS core stage at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Boeing and NASA Power Up Space Launch System Core Stage for Green Run

July 1, 2020 in Space, Technology

Test teams have turned on NASA’s SLS core stage in flight configuration with the stage controller for the first time at Stennis Space Center.

Learn More
Artemis I rocket successfully completes structural testing

Artemis I rocket successfully completes structural testing

June 26, 2020 in Space

The final pressure test of a Space Launch System liquid oxygen tank this week completed the SLS core stage structural qualification test campaign.

Learn More
Tuning up for Green Run

Tuning up for Green Run

April 28, 2020 in Space

Boeing and NASA Space Launch System teams have completed a rigorous avionics review so the program will be prepared to resume testing of the first SLS core stage when NASA reopens Stennis Space Center.

Learn More
Building a Core Capability for NASA

Building a Core Capability for NASA

April 6, 2020 in Space

At Michoud Assembly Facility, all elements of the SLS core stage for the crewed Artemis II lunar mission have been welded and built, and the third core stage was being fabricated before a suspension of operations in response to COVID-19.

Learn More
Space Launch System gets green light for green run

Space Launch System gets green light for green run

March 3, 2020 in Space

Boeing and NASA test team members send shock waves through the 212-foot SLS core stage to confirm engineering models and pave the way for hot-fire testing later this year.

Learn More
 Artemis I Core Stage Prepped for Dress Rehearsal

Artemis I Core Stage Prepped for Dress Rehearsal

January 24, 2020 in Space

NASA and Boeing prepare for a giant leap toward returning humans to the moon and beyond. NASA will use flight hardware for its initial test of the SLS core stage.

Learn More
First NASA Space Launch System Core Stage Rolls Out

First NASA Space Launch System Core Stage Rolls Out

January 13, 2020 in Space

Boeing completes and delivers first Space Launch System core stage, the next step toward NASA’s Artemis I mission to lunar orbit.

Learn More
Engines Installed on Space Launch System Artemis I Rocket

Engines Installed on Space Launch System Artemis I Rocket

November 12, 2019 in Space

Boeing team begins integrated testing of core stage structure.

Learn More
Boeing Begins Engine Install on SLS Core Stage

Boeing Begins Engine Install on SLS Core Stage

October 23, 2019 in Space

Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne technicians are installing the four powerful RS-25 engines modified for the Space Launch System at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, while ramping up to support the full core stage hot fire testing at Stennis Space Center next year.

Learn More
Fresh ideas from the factory floor

Fresh ideas from the factory floor

October 10, 2019 in Space

Innovation is built into the Space Launch System from the ground up, as technicians and engineers work together to improve the rocket by incorporating ideas from the shop floor into future design and build plans, making each rocket core stage come together faster, and more efficiently.

Learn More
Space Launch System Core Stage Structure Complete

Space Launch System Core Stage Structure Complete

October 1, 2019 in Space

Boeing teams in New Orleans connected the first Space Launch System (SLS) engine section to the rest of the rocket’s core stage.

Learn More
SLS Engine Section Complete; Prepares for Join

SLS Engine Section Complete; Prepares for Join

September 10, 2019 in Space

Production of the first Space Launch System core stage approaches final join as teams prep the engine section using new tooling and a new maneuver.

Learn More
Testing the Limits

Testing the Limits

August 27, 2019 in Space

Space Launch System liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks undergo testing at Marshall Space Flight Center to ensure the rocket can withstand launch and ascent.

Learn More
More than a Rocket

More than a Rocket

August 8, 2019 in Space

As Boeing prepares for final element join on the first Space Launch System core stage, the second core stage of the advanced launch system is underway, and the design of a powerful Exploration Upper Stage is taking shape.

Learn More
Full Throttle for Rocket Production

Full Throttle for Rocket Production

May 31, 2019 in Space

The second of three major joins that make up the Space Launch System core stage is underway in New Orleans, taking America a giant leap closer to launching NASA’s Artemis missions.

Learn More
Stacking NASA’s Giant Rocket

Stacking NASA’s Giant Rocket

February 7, 2019 in Space

Boeing employees at NASA’s Michoud facility complete a forward join on the SLS rocket core stage.

Learn More
Rocket testing lifts off at NASA Marshall

Rocket testing lifts off at NASA Marshall

January 23, 2019 in Space

The liquid hydrogen tank for Space Launch System is lifted in place in preparation for testing.

Learn More
Committed to the Core

Committed to the Core

August 6, 2018 in Space

Testing, installation and integration of the Space Launch System core stage is underway.

Learn More
Monumental Journey

Monumental Journey

December 2, 2016 in Space

Space Launch System employees move closer to completing core stage of world’s most powerful rocket.

Learn More
Far Out

Far Out

February 3, 2014 in Space

Boeing's next big adventures into deep space ride with new super rocket.

Learn More
The Path to Mars: Deep Space Mission

The Path to Mars: Deep Space Mission

December 4, 2014 in Innovation, Space

NASA is setting its eyes on the exploration of Mars, an over two year-long journey that will make history. Today's children will be the first explorers of our neighboring planet with help from Boeing technology to discover ground humans humans have yet to see.

Learn More
The Rocket Makers

The Rocket Makers

November 19, 2014 in Space

With cutting-edge technology, Boeing employees once again are helping build a mighty rocket.

Learn More
Space Launch System

38 Stories of Power

November 13, 2014 in Innovation, Space

With cutting-edge technology, Boeing employees once again are helping build a mighty rocket.

Learn More
Aerospace's largest tool unveiled

Aerospace's largest tool unveiled

September 22, 2014 in Space

Take a ride on the new Space Launch System built by Boeing and ignite your human spirit.

Learn More
Tanks for a great idea

Tanks for a great idea

March 18, 2014 in Space, Technology

Boeing has designed and built two composite liquid-hydrogen fuel tanks for heavy-lift launch vehicles that will propel future air and space missions.

Learn More
Boeing prepares to build the biggest rocket

Building the Biggest Rocket with the Biggest Tools

June 28, 2013 in Space

Boeing has designed and built two composite liquid-hydrogen fuel tanks for heavy-lift launch vehicles that will propel future air and space missions.

Learn More

Missions

SLS will launch a permanent human presence in deep space. Its flexibility and evolvability will support diverse exploration, science and security missions.

On the Artemis I test flight, SLS will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to the moon to test the performance of the integrated system. Additional missions are planned with this SLS Block 1 configuration and its 27.5 metric ton launch payload capability to Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) beyond Earth orbit, as the even more powerful Block 1B version is designed and built. This upgraded two-stage configuration will provide lift capability of 45 metric tons to TLI beyond Earth orbit, using the Boeing-built Exploration Upper Stage. That’s almost three times the lift power to TLI as any other rocket.

Boeing has delivered flight hardware for the first Artemis mission and is producing flight hardware for Artemis II and III.

Artemis I Infographic

Core Stage 101

Core Stage Infographic

Videos

Space Launch System Customer

U.S. Flag

NASA is Boeing’s customer for the core stage, upper stages and flight avionics of Space Launch System — America’s rocket — which will support the Artemis moon missions and make the next generation of human spaceflight possible.

Boeing is committed to NASA’s Artemis program and to the National Space Council’s vision for continued American leadership and international partnerships in space.

The Boeing SLS Program is managed out of the company’s Space and Launch division in Huntsville, Alabama, and employs Boeing’s workforce in Huntsville, at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and at other Boeing sites and with suppliers across the country. The Boeing Exploration Launch Systems office supports NASA on strategy and policy for Space Exploration programs procured by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.