Ever wonder what you'd need to build the world's largest spacecraft? The world's largest tools, of course.
Looking to usher in a new era of space exploration, late last August NASA approved the next generation of American rockets, known as the Space Launch System (SLS). Built for deep-space missions the core stage of the rocket is more than 200 feet tall and 27.6 feet in diameter, allowing enough space to fuel four RS-25 engines.
"This rocket is a game changer in terms of deep space exploration and will launch NASA astronauts to investigates asteroids and explore the surface of Mars while opening new possibilities for science missions, as well" NASA Aministrator, Charles Bolden said during the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans this past Friday, Sept. 12.
As the largest, most powerful rocket ever built, the SLS posed unique problems for NASA's development team, and required a new set of tools for the solution. At the Vertical Assembly Center, at NASA's Michoud facility, the space agency also revealed the world's largest welding tool needed to handle the job of creating the SLS. At 170 feet tall, 78 feet wide, the world-class welding toolkit is a giant necessary for assembly of every aspect, from the domes to even the adjacent tanks of the SLS's core stage.
Work is currently well underway on the Space Launch System, as engineers from contractors Boeing and Avionics have put the Vertical Weld Center to use. To date, all rings for the first flight of the SLS and ten barrels have all been welded for the core stage, and the state-of-the-art tool is allowing for many more possibilities in spacecraft assembly than ever before. With great success in the development of new tools to tackle larger feats in spacecraft assembly, NASA is looking towards a brighter future filled with even larger projects that could take us farther in space.
"The SLS Program continues to make significant progress" SLS Program Manager, Todd May says. "The core stage and boosters have both completed critical design review, and NASA recently approved the SLS Program's progression from formulation to development."
"This is a major milestone for the program, and proof the first new design for SLS is mature enough for production."