First SLS core stage completed and ready for final testing


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After sixteen years of development, slowed by politics and a confused management at NASA, the first core stage of NASA’s SLS rocket is finally completed and ready for shipping to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for its final full test.

The heart of NASA’s first flight-ready Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket emerged from its factory in New Orleans Wednesday morning for a barge trip to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for an eight-minute test-firing of its space shuttle-era hydrogen-fueled engines.

The 212-foot-long (64.6-meter), 27.6-foot-wide (8.4-meter) core stage of the Space Launch System rolled out of its factory at the Michoud Assembly Facility, signaling a significant, but long-delayed milestone in the SLS program’s eight-year history. Teams loaded the core stage into NASA’s Pegasus barge to be ferried on a half-day journey to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The link has a lot of cool images of the stage. You can also find more cool images and videos of the core stage’s unveiling yesterday here.

Whether this stage will pass that eight-minute test remains unknown. And if it does, it also remains unknown whether it will be ready to fly in November 2020, sending an unmanned Orion capsule around the Moon. Either way, the cost to build that SLS rocket is approaching $25 billion, a cost that only includes two flights, one unmanned.

We could have bought a lot of Falcon Heavies for that price, and be heading for the Moon right now had we done so.

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One comment

  • Edward

    Robert,
    You wrote: “… slowed by politics and a confused management at NASA …

    This reminds me of something that Paul Spudis wrote in his 2016 book “The Value of the Moon:” “Regrettably, strategic confusion currently abounds in the American civil space program.

    Now that there is a mission defined for NASA’s manned space program, NASA may be able to focus and perform research, exploration, and technology development to complete that mission, even — and especially — if these come from commercial space companies.

    The main problem that I see with Artemis is that it has the government in charge of getting back to the Moon. When we let government be in charge, we get what government wants. When We the People take charge, we will begin to get what we want.

    It gets better, because when commercial companies do things in space (We the People in charge), it is for profit, so these activities are productive and cost efficient. People on Earth get benefits, and no one complains that we are wasting money in space that could have been better spent feeding people here on Earth. (Of course, Apollo fed 400,000 families directly and even more indirectly, but few people seem to realize that. It is too bad that Apollo failed to result in a continuous manned presence in space.)

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