Artemis II NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Christina Koch of NASA, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen view the core stage for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on Nov. 16. The three astronauts, along with NASA’s Victor Glover, will launch atop the rocket stage to venture around the Moon on Artemis II, the first crewed flight for Artemis.
The SLS core stage, towering at 212 feet, is the backbone of the Moon rocket and includes two massive propellant tanks that collectively hold 733,000 gallons of propellant to help power the stage’s four RS-25 engines. NASA, Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, along with Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company and the RS-25 engines lead contractor, are in the midst of conducting final integrated testing on the fully assembled rocket stage. At launch and during ascent to space, the Artemis astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will feel the power of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines producing more than 2 million pounds of thrust for a full eight minutes. The mega rocket’s twin solid rocket boosters, which flank either side of the core stage, will each add an additional 3.6 million pounds of thrust for two minutes.
The astronauts’ visit to Michoud coincided with the first anniversary of the launch of Artemis I. The uncrewed flight test of SLS and Orion was the first in a series of increasingly complex missions for Artemis as the agency works to return humans to the lunar surface and develop a long-term presence there for discovery and exploration.
NASA is working to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, advanced spacesuits and rovers, the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.
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