Boeing completed the Space Launch System (SLS) engine section, the final major component of what will be the first rocket’s 212-foot core stage, in the final days of August. The team at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans immediately began preparing the section to be joined with the other four-fifths of the core stage.
Workers first released the engine section from the scaffolding used for external access during assembly operations, fitted the hardware for stabilizing it during the move, then transported it to another area of the factory for a critical lift. The engine section remains positioned in a customized structural tool for transportation, until lift operations are complete.
Over the past year, Boeing teams integrated avionics and propulsion systems into the engine section while it sat vertically in scaffolding to allow technicians, engineers, and inspectors better access for safety and quality. Join with the core stage requires that the section be lifted from the current tooling and turned to a horizontal orientation and positioned in new tooling for the mate.
To create a parallel path for critical elements of core stage development, and improve access to the engine section for workers, Boeing and NASA oriented the section vertically, like a ring lying on a flat surface, during build. Over the past year, Boeing integrated avionics and propulsion systems into the engine section while it sat in the scaffolding.
The section will be flipped to horizontal, like a ring standing on its rim, for final join with the rest of the core stage. That movement, known as “breakover,” will take about 48 hours of continuous and careful maneuvering to protect all the critical systems inside.
The engine section is one of the most complex and intricate parts of the rocket that will help power the Artemis missions to the moon. In addition to its miles of cabling and hundreds of sensors, it 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.
When the core stage is joined, the team will begin the complicated task of connecting the four RS-25 engines to the main propulsion systems inside the engine section.
Boeing will deliver the complete core stage for the Artemis 1 rocket to NASA for testing by the end of this year.