NASA made history on St. Patrick’s Day evening by introducing the first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to the planet at Kennedy Space Center (KSC)! The rocket, which will be part of the Artemis I mission later this year, rolled out of High Bay 3 at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on top of Crawler Transporter 2 (CT-2) and made the 10 hour journey while attached to the new Mobile Launcher out to historic Space Launch Complex 39-B where it will undergo a “wet dress rehearsal”. This will allow the team to run through prelaunch operations including loading propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conducting a full launch countdown including recycling the countdown clock and draining the tanks. Then CT-2 will roll the SLS and mobile launcher back into the VAB where the team will assess what they learned and hopefully set a date for the Artemis I mission.
This first version of the SLS is called the Block I and with the Orion Spacecraft on top of it, the entire rocket stands 322 ft tall. There is a cargo version of the Block I configuration but we should see Block IB as well as Block 2 in both cargo and crew versions (see the illustration below) in the future as NASA pushes human exploration of space to the moon and beyond.
It hopefully won’t be too much longer before we see the first SLS liftoff from Kennedy Space Center and that will usher in a brand new and exciting era of human space exploration!