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Excitement for the Journey Beyond Earth is Building

Boeing and NASA employees at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans halted work long enough for a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the largest spacecraft welding tool in the world, the Vertical Assembly Center. Now they are eager to get back to work building the world’s largest rocket. The 170-foot-tall, 78-foot-wide giant completes the unique tool set that will be used to build the core stage of America’s next great rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) – the heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars.  

NASA photo
NASA photo

“It’s great to have everyone here to celebrate with us, but we’re more excited to start welding,” said Patricia Key , who managed the VAC project. Building out the facility means a great deal to most of the employees working on SLS as many of them supported the International Space Station, Space Shuttle and other space programs. Michoud employees built the fuel tanks for the Space Shuttle, too. So they know big rockets.  

The core stage will tower more than 200 feet tall (61 meters) with a diameter of 27.6 feet (8.4 meters), and is designed to store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the rocket’s four RS-25 engines.  

Boeing, under contract with NASA to design, develop, and manufacture the SLS core stages and avionics of SLS, worked for more than two years to build out the facility. Work among other NASA industry contractors also continues on the engines, boosters, and ground systems. Friday’s event signaled the beginning of the next phase of rocket development – all systems go!  

NASA officials also recently announced they have completed a rigorous review of the SLS and approved the program’s progression from formulation to development, something no other exploration class vehicle has achieved since the agency built the space shuttle.  

Check out this video about the world’s largest spacecraft welding tool:  

Visit Beyond Earth to find out more about the journey beyond Earth orbit and to Mars.

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