On January 8, local time, NASA unveiled the full core of its new overweight rocket, Space Launch System (SLS), according tomedia. The core class, built by NASA’s Michud assembly plant in New Orleans, Louisiana, is being shipped to Mississippi for critical testing before the first launch.
SLS is an important part of NASA’s Artemis project, which aims to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024. When assembled, it will be the world’s most powerful rocket, comparable to the Saturn V rocket that sent the first astronauts to the moon. Now, however, the rocket has not yet made any actual flight. Over the past decade, SLS has been in the research and development phase, experiencing multiple delays and increased costs. Initially, the SLS rocket was scheduled to make its debut in 2017, but it won’t be announced until 2021 at the earliest.
Now, the core of SLS will take a boat to NASA’s Stannis Space Center in Mississippi. There, this phase will require a major test — the Overall Integration Test. It should be noted, however, that the test will be conducted on a test bench rather than on a launch pad. The entire ignition process will take about 8 minutes, which is exactly how long the main engine takes to burn during the actual launch.
NASA and Boeing, SLS’s main contractor, expect the overall integration test to take place sometime this summer, and they believe the rocket will be able to ship to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, between July and October.