NASA Completes Welding of SLS Rocket’s Fuel Tank

Oct 06, 2016 05:11 AM EDT

NASA has completed the welding for one of its massive fuel tanks to be used in the maiden launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) mega rocket and the Orion space capsule in 2018.

Technicians have welded together the core stage liquid hydrogen fuel tank on the Vertical Assembly Center at the agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The liquid hydrogen tank is known as the world's largest cryogenic fuel tank for a rocket, standing more than 130 feet tall, NASA said in a press release. It is the largest major part of the SLS core stage, capable of holding 537,000 gallons of chilled liquid hydrogen.

The liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank are part of the core stage of the rocket, which serves as the backbone of the SLS rocket, and will measure over 200 feet tall. Overall, the tanks will hold 733,000 gallons of propellant and provide fuel for the vehicle's four powerful RS-25 engines, which are modified space shuttle main engines, to produce about 2 million pounds of thrust.

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Apart from the liquid hydrogen tank and the liquid oxygen tank, the SLS core stage will also be comprised of the forward skirt, the intertank, and the engine section.

According to NASA, deep space travel would require a large rocket that is capable of carrying large payloads. SLS will have the payload capacity needed to carry cargo and crew in the agency's Orion capsule for future deep space expeditions, including the Journey to Mars, moon mission and asteroid missions.

During the SLS's booster test in June, the booster's nozzle plug broke apart and was captured by NASA in a slow motion video. But NASA officials said the test result should not be interpreted as a failure, as the nozzle intentionally broke into pieces.

The SLS and an uncrewed Orion capsule are scheduled for a maiden test flight in November 2018, Universe Today reports. NASA endeavors to send humans to Mars by the 2030s on board the SLS and Orion space capsule.

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