The first space launch system (SLS) booster segment was stacked on the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this week in preparation for its maiden flight, NASA said Tuesday.
A total of 10 segments will form the two solid rocket boosters ahead of its first liftoff, which is expected to take place next year.
The rocket is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, which aims to send the first woman and the next man to the moon by 2024. NASA officials also hope the SLS will be used to reach Mars and other “deep space destinations”.
When fully assembled, NASA said the SLS rocket will be taller than the Statue of Liberty and have about 15% more thrust on takeoff than the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo missions. 50 years ago, which made it the most powerful rocket ever built.
“Stacking the first piece of the SLS rocket onto the mobile launcher marks a significant milestone for the Artemis program,” said Andrew Shroble, an integrated operations flow manager at Jacobs, a company working with NASA on the program. Artemis, in a NASA press release. .
“This shows that the mission is truly taking shape and will soon be heading to the launch pad. ”
NASA’s Artemis I mission is expected to be launched in 2021 with two test flights around the moon without astronauts. Artemis II is expected to be launched in 2023 with astronauts on board in order to bring Artemis III astronauts to the surface of the Moon.
Artemis is named after the Greek goddess of the moon and is the twin sister of Apollo.