Image Credit: NASA
NASA unveiled the 170-foot-tall, 78-foot-wide Vertical Assembly Center, a spacecraft welding tool at its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The core stage of Space Launch System (SLS), America’s giant rocket will be developed using this welding toolkit.
With a height of 200ft and a diameter of 27.6ft, the core stage of this robust deep space mission rocket will carry liquid oxygen and cryogenic liquid hydrogen to fuel the RS-25 engines of the rocket.
The Vertical Assembly Center is an innovative welding tool that is capable of welding barrels, together to form dry structure assemblies or tanks, besides evaluating rings and domes finished welds. The prime contractor of the core stage and avionics of SLS is Boeing.
SLS program manager, Todd May stated that the critical design review of boosters and the core stage have been completed and recently, NASA’s approval for the advancement of the SLS Program from formulation stage to development level has also been received. He considered this progression as an important breakthrough for the successful completion of the program and evidence that the new SLS design is suitable for production.
Work on the development of other additional welding tools is in progress. Segmented Ring Tool was used for welding of SLS rings for the first SLS flight. 10 barrels of SLS were welded using the Vertical Weld Center. The rings constitute the major core-stage structures such as the engine section, the liquid hydrogen tank, the intertank, the liquid oxygen tank and the forward skirt.
NASA's Kennedy Space Center scientists recently completed the Orion spacecraft crew module that will be carried in a test flight to space this December. Moreover, another critical agency-level review was completed by NASA's Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, and the design was approved for development.