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NASA Administrator Marks Completion of World’s Largest Spacecraft Welding Tool for Space Launch System

NASA’s new Vertical Assembly Center (VAC), a 170-foot-high marvel of machinery that will be used to assemble elements of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS), now is complete and ready to weld parts for the rocket that will send humans to an asteroid and Mars.

Media are invited to join NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at the ribbon cutting for the enormous new tool at 11 a.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 12, at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans where the core stage is being built. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Bolden and other officials from NASA and Boeing, the prime contractor for the SLS core stage and avionics, will be available for a brief media opportunity following the ceremony.

The Vertical Assembly Center will be used to join domes, rings and barrels segments to complete the SLS fuel tanks. The tool also will be used to perform evaluations of the completed welds. Towering more than 200 feet tall, with a diameter of 27.6 feet, the core stage will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines.

Bolden also will visit NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, following the Michoud events, and will be available to talk to media at 2:15 p.m. CDT at the base of the historic B-2 Test Stand, along with other NASA representatives. The B-2 Test Stand was used to test the S-1C stage on the Saturn V moon rocket and the Main Propulsion Test Article, the configuration of three main engines flown on space shuttle missions. The stand will next be used to test the core stage of SLS and its configuration of four RS-25 engines.

Media who wish to attend both the Michoud and Stennis events must contact Chip Howat at or 504-214-6745 no later than 4 p.m. CDT Thursday, Sept. 11. Media must arrive at 13800 Old Gentilly Road, Bldg. 101 visitor’s lobby, by 9:15 a.m. Friday, Sept. 12, for access to the facility. Official media credentials with photo identification are required for access.

Those interested only in attending the Stennis event must contact Paul Foerman at or 228-688-1880 no later than 4 p.m. CDT Thursday, Sept. 11.

For more information about SLS, visit:

For NASA TV streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit:


Rachel Kraft
Headquarters, Washington
Kim Henry/Shannon Ridinger                                                                                         
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Paul Foerman
Stennis Space Center, Miss.