NASA’s deep-space exploration rocket is taking shape. Over the weekend, the Boeing-built core stage for the agency’s Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket was lifted into the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
The 212-foot, 188,000-pound (65-meter, 85,275-kilogram) core stage is the backbone of the rocket, supporting all the parts of the rocket that are stacked above it,
Following core stage connection to the boosters and the launch vehicle stage adapter, NASA will begin stacking the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage. Built by United Launch Alliance in partnership with Boeing, this in-space stage will deliver the push needed to propel Orion toward lunar orbit on the uncrewed Artemis I mission.
Boeing leaders say they have saved weeks of critical-path progress toward launch by using solid planning tools that enabled post-test refurbishment work and integration preparation to happen simultaneously.
“After the Green Run core stage test series, we condensed the Stennis Space Center scheduled work to bring the team and tooling to Kennedy and shorten the time to launch,” said Mark Nappi, the Boeing Green Run director who now manages Boeing launch operations at Kennedy. “We were able to complete refurbishment ahead of plan, then support NASA’s stacking and integration team – really a remarkable accomplishment.”
Boeing has set up shipside support to handle any core stage-related work NASA may need during the integration.
“We offered NASA assistance, guidance and assuming entire work statements, and they’ve taken us up on all three,” said Craig Morgan, Boeing vehicle manager at Kennedy. “Team members worked over Memorial Day weekend and throughout the month to help NASA finish necessary steps and maintain schedule. We’re making every effort to get this vehicle safely to the launch pad.”