Teams across NASA are working towards the first launch of astronauts to the moon in over 50 years.
The crew assigned to launch aboard an Orion spacecraft for the historic mission was recently revealed, and as the Artemis 2 astronauts prepare to fly further than any human ever has, their launch vehicle is undergoing preparations of its own.
In a video shared by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage for Artemis 2 can be seen undergoing assembly at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. All five segments of the 212-foot (65-meter) fuselage have been joined, and the engine block seems to have been the final component. In the clip, engineers work to align and bolt the bottom of the SLS vehicle to the rest of the stage.
In the footage, mobile supports can be seen being used to slowly roll the massive sections into place, which are then secured to one another using a total of 360 bolts. Next, technicians will move the assembled core in place for installation of the vehicle's four RS-25 engines. Once complete, the SLS core stage will be shipped through the Gulf of Mexico to Florida's Space Coast where the full launch vehicle will take shape.
Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, ground crews will attach the vehicle's solid rocket boosters and mate the core to the rocket's second stage, known as the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), in addition to the Orion capsule and its European service module.
If everything stays on schedule and according to plan, NASA is targeting November 2024 for the launch of Artemis 2. The mission will send a crew of four astronauts on a test flight that will see them circle the moon once before returning back to Earth in order to test and verify various systems and procedures aboard Orion. The data gathered on the flight will help inform future Artemis program missions.
The Artemis 2 crew will consist of three NASA astronauts, commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Christina Koch, in addition to the Canadian Space Agency's Jeremy Hansen who is also flying as a mission specialist.