NASA Podcasts

Mobile Launcher Moves for Testing
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NASA offered a glimpse at what its launch pad will look like later this decade when workers moved the mobile launcher to Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39B in Florida for two weeks of structural and other testing. Reaching 400 feet above the crawlerway, the dark-colored platform with its 355-foot-tall gray, steel tower is reminiscent of the launch umbilical tower used during the Apollo era to support the Saturn V rocket. The new mobile launcher, or ML, was first designed for a thin rocket. It will be modified to host NASA's Space Launch System, a heavy lift rocket under development that will launch astronauts to deep space. With the main structure ready and a rocket design chosen, officials said it was time to take the mobile launcher on a 4.2-mile trip from its worksite beside the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B. NASA's 21st Century Ground Systems Program is overseeing the ML's construction and modifications. The trip took a little more than nine hours to complete, starting at about 9:15 a.m. Nov. 16 and ending at 6:29 p.m. The structure was never moved that far, so it gave engineers a chance to see how it would behave. They looked for signs of swaying or other dynamics and will evaluate the data in the coming weeks to help determine future modifications. The ML will see several modifications in the coming years as it is fitted for the SLS and NASA's new Orion spacecraft. Swing arms will be added to the ML to carry propellant and make information and electrical connections to the different stages of the rocket. A crew access arm will be added also reach out to the Orion capsule at the top of the rocket. After those additions are made in the coming years, the tower will again be moved to pad B to assess the structure again before the rocket itself is built on it and rolled out for a test flight without a crew in 2017. › View Now