NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) moved one step closer to reality after Boeing delivered the first rocket core stage from a barge today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and moved to the vehicle assembly building.

The 212-foot core stage will be stacked with a Boeing/United Launch Alliance Interim Cyrogrenic Upper Stage, two solid rocket boosters, a launch vehicle stage adapter and the Orion spacecraft.

The SLS is NASA’s new launch vehicle that will carry humans beyond Earth’s orbit and carry the new Orion spacecraft on missions to explore multiple space destinations such as the moon and Mars. The SLS is to launch the Orion in an uncrewed mission around the moon and back as part of the Artemis I mission.

This will be the first in a series of missions to test both the Orion spacecraft and the SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the moon for sustained exploration. NASA said the SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and cargo to the moon in a single mission.

Boeing is the prime contractor to NASA for the SLS core and upper stages and avionics. Boeing is currently joining major elements for the Artemis II core stage now at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, while manufacturing core stage elements for Artemis III.

Earlier this year, NASA tested the core stage rocket firing its four RS-25 engines successfully for 8 minutes and 19 seconds and generated more than 1.6 million pounds of thrust within seven seconds.

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