NASA’s Space Launch System core stage pathfinder is a full-scale simulator similar in size, shape and weight to the massive SLS core stage. The steel mockup will help handlers validate ground support equipment and practice transporting the 212-foot-long core stage on a variety of terrains with different vehicles. Practicing with pathfinder will reduce risk when people lift and transport one-of-a-kind flight hardware. Alabama companies that contributed to pathfinder include Radiance Technologies and Dynetics, Inc. in Huntsville and G&G Steel in Cordova where final welding and major assembly operations where completed. Pathfinder will travel 400 miles by commercial barge from Cordova to NASA’s rocket factory in New Orleans: the Michoud Assembly Facility where the core stage is being built. Later, NASA’s barge Pegasus will take pathfinder to Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where it will be lifted into the B-2 test stand to practice operations before the green run hot-fire test. Finally, pathfinder will pave the way for core stage activities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Kevin Obrien