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NASA Teams Load Artemis I Rocket Hardware on Barge for Trip to Kennedy

Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, moved the Artemis I launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket onto the agency’s Pegasus barge July 17.

The adapter is the cone shaped piece that connects the rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS). Pegasus will transport the flight hardware to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket in preparation for launch. Artemis I is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s launch vehicle stage adapter is loaded on the Pegasus barge at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, July 17. The launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the rocket’s 212-foot-tall core stage to the upper stage of the rocket, will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Artemis I launch preparations. Credits: NASA/Fred Deaton


“The launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket was the final piece of Artemis I rocket hardware built exclusively at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,” said Marshall Director Jody Singer. “This milestone comes as Marshall teams just completed the structural test campaign of the SLS rocket that confirmed the rocket’s structural design is ready for Artemis missions to the Moon.”

Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle joined Singer and other Alabama officials to mark the event. Singer read a proclamation by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declaring  July 17th Artemis Day in Alabama: “Alabamians are exceedingly proud of the Space Launch System achievements of today, and the advances of tomorrow made possible by the upcoming Artemis missions that will continue to demonstrate NASA’s benefit to humanity.”


NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s launch vehicle stage adapter.

Credits: NASA/Fred Deaton



Many Alabama companies have built major parts of the rocket, including Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville that serves as the lead contractor for the launch vehicle stage adapter. The launch vehicle stage adapter’s cone shape partially covers the ICPS to protect the RL10 rocket engine. The RL10, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, powers the ICPS, built by Boeing and United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The ICPS accelerates Orion fast enough to overcome Earth’s gravity and set it on a precise trajectory to the Moon. Boeing also built the Artemis I core stage at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and that stage is currently undergoing final Green Run testing at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. After the arrival of the launch vehicle stage adapter in about two weeks, the core stage will be the final piece of Artemis I hardware to be delivered to Kennedy.

“The launch vehicle stage adapter is welded together as two separate cones that are then stacked on top of each other,” said Keith Higginbotham, the launch vehicle stage adapter hardware manager. “Marshall’s expertise with an innovative process called friction stir welding and the center’s large robotic weld tools made it possible to build some pieces of the rocket at Marshall while the core stage was built at the same time by Boeing at Michoud.”

Jody Singer, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama joins Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle for a look at the Artemis I launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. It rolled out from Marshall manufacturing facilities to NASA’s Pegasus barge July 17. The launch vehicle stage adapter will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of the first launch for NASA’s Artemis program. Huntsville-based Teledyne Brown Engineering built the launch vehicle stage at a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Marshall. Credits: NASA/Fred Deaton


On July 17, the last piece of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket hardware built at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the first Artemis mission to the Moon was loaded on the Pegasus barge for delivery to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. To mark the milestone, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared July 17th Artemis Day in Alabama. The proclamation states: “Alabamians are exceedingly proud of the Space Launch System achievements of today, and the advances of tomorrow made possible by the upcoming Artemis missions that will continue to demonstrate NASA’s benefit to humanity.” Marshall teams also built the Artemis I Orion stage adapter, which is at Kennedy along with the ICPS. Work is underway on the ICPS, the launch vehicle stage adapter and the Orion stage adapter for the rocket’s second flight. Many SLS companies and suppliers are busy completing parts of the rocket for the Artemis II mission that will send astronauts to the Moon inside the Orion spacecraft.

“Teledyne Brown is committed to supporting NASA’s Artemis program to return American astronauts to the Moon and are now manufacturing the launch vehicle stage adapter for the second Artemis lunar mission,” said Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering. NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, the human landing system, and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world and will send astronauts in the Orion spacecraft farther into space than ever before. No other rocket is capable of sending astronauts in Orion around the Moon.

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