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NASA Teams Prepare Moon Rocket-to-Spacecraft Connector for Assembly

Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center flip the Artemis II Orion stage adapter for installation of its diaphragm Nov. 30.
NASA/Sam Lott

The elements of the super-heavy lift SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for NASA’s Artemis II mission are undergoing final preparations before shipment to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for stacking and pre-launch activities in 2024.

Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, recently rotated the Orion stage adapter– a ring structure that connects NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the SLS rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) – in preparation for the installation of its diaphragm. The installation Nov. 30 marks one of the final steps for the adapter before it is readied for shipment to Kennedy via NASA’s Super Guppy cargo aircraft.

“The diaphragm is a composite, dome-shaped structure that isolates the volume above the ICPS from that below Orion,” said Brent Gaddes, lead for the Orion stage adapter, in the Spacecraft/Payload Integration & Evolution Office for the SLS Program at Marshall. “It serves as a barrier between the two, preventing the highly flammable hydrogen gas that could escape the rocket’s propellant tanks from building up beneath the Orion spacecraft and its crew before and during launch.”

At five feet tall and weighing in at 1,800 pounds, the adapter is the smallest major element of the SLS rocket that will produce more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust to launch four Artemis astronauts inside Orion around the Moon. The adapter is fully manufactured by engineering teams at Marshall.

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 Orion and 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 launch.

For more on NASA SLS visit:

Corinne Beckinger
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.