Barging In: Mighty SLS Core Stage for Artemis I Mission Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

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The final piece of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send NASA’s Artemis I mission to the Moon has arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SLS Program delivered the core stage rocket to the center’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf after completing a successful series of Green Run tests at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The 212-foot-tall core stage, which is the largest rocket stage NASA has ever built, completed its voyage aboard the agency’s Pegasus barge on April 27.

After a 900-mile journey, teams aboard the barge, which was modified to support SLS’s weight and length, safely piloted the specialized self-sustaining vessel to the spaceport.

“With the delivery of the SLS core stage for Artemis I, we have all the parts of the rocket at Kennedy for the first Artemis mission,” said John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, “Our team looks forward to working with the Exploration Ground Systems team as all these huge pieces come together to build America’s Moon rocket”.

Now that the core stage is at Kennedy, the next step is to offload it from the barge to be prepared for stacking.

It will be taken to the center’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building on the self-propelled module transporter, which is used to move large elements of hardware.

Teams from Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs will lead the efforts to integrate the massive rocket stage with the Orion spacecraft and the additional flight hardware ahead of the Artemis I launch.

Waiting to greet the core stage inside the facility are the twin solid rocket boosters that have been fully stacked atop the mobile launcher and the launch vehicle stage adapter housed inside High Bay 4.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Core Stage to Florida for our team to begin the integration of the SLS launch vehicle,” said Mike Bolger, NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program manager at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “We have been working diligently towards this moment and are honored to contribute to our nation’s space exploration goals with the launch of Artemis I.”

Artemis I will be the first integrated test of SLS and Orion and will pave the way for landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface.

The mission will be a stepping stone for deep space exploration, leading the agency’s efforts under the Artemis program for a sustainable presence on the Moon and preparing for human missions to Mars.

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