Bon voyage: Boeing team preps SLS stage for its next trip

Artemis I flight hardware moves toward launch

April 21, 2021 in Space

Taking advantage of light winds Monday and Tuesday following another area storm front, teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center used a crane to remove the first NASA Space Launch System, or SLS, core stage from the B-2 Test Stand. The flight hardware will soon be shipped to Kennedy Space Center for launch.

The careful lift and move of the 212-foot, 188,000-pound (85,270 kg) stage follows refurbishment and other closeout tasks. It’s the next dramatic step after a flawless hot fire test in March, during which the stage fired its RS-25 engines for a little more than eight minutes, as each core stage will do to launch every upcoming Artemis mission to the Moon.

“Core stage completion, watching it be lifted from the stand, it’s bittersweet,” said Amanda Gertjejansen, Boeing senior production manager for the vehicle. “It’s exciting, knowing we’re building this really important capability for NASA, but that’s our baby we have to send on to the team in Florida to get it ready for launch.”

NASA’s Artemis missions, powered by the SLS rocket, will send the first woman and first person of color to the lunar surface. The last crewed Moon landing was Apollo 17 in 1972. Smaller rockets have been launching astronauts to the International Space Station in low Earth orbit, about 250 miles away from Earth. The Moon is about 1,000 times farther, around 238,900 miles (384,000 km) away from Earth, and the next giant leap – Mars – is 34 million miles (55 million km) from Earth. No other rocket can lift the Orion spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit.

“Knowing the work we do is going to take humans back to the Moon and on to Mars; this is one of those moments that you look back and remember as an iconic moment in history,” said Boeing Green Run Director Mark Nappi. “The next time those engines fire up will be on the launch pad.”