The first SLS rocket core stage has been loaded onto NASA’s Pegasus barge at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The gigantic core stage will be transported to the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis in Mississippi for final testing.
NASA ground teams at the Michoud Assembly Facility transported the SLS core stage the 2.1 kilometers from the assembly building to the barge dock on January 8. The 65-meter long stage was then loaded into the agency’s Pegasus barge. The barge was originally built to ferry the giant external tanks of space shuttles. It has since been modified and extended by several meters to accommodate the SLS core stages.
The core stage of NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket will now begin the 40-mile journey from Michoud to the Stennis Space Center. This is the same route the Apollo Saturn V first stages destined to carry astronauts to the Moon for the first time would have taken in the 1960s and 70s.
“Rolling out the completed core stage from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility to go on to NASA’s Stennis Space Center for further testing is an exciting leap forward in the Artemis program as NASA teams make progress toward the launch pad,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.
Once unloaded at the Stennis Space Center, the stage will be lifted and placed into the historic B-2 Test Stand for the Green Run test campaign. The Green Run tests are an exhaustive review of the SLS core stage and include testing each element of the stage from the avionics to its four RS-25 engines. The tests are the last hurdle the stage needs to clear before it is clear for the maiden launch of the Artemis program.
Following the completition of the Green Run test, the SLS core stage will be loaded back onto the Pegasus barge for its trip to the Kennedy Space Centre where it will undergo final launch preparations.