Spaceflight Insider

Video: NASA releases construction time-lapse of SLS qualification tank

This artist's concept depicts the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credit: NASA

This artist’s concept depicts the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credit: NASA

As the first flight of the massive Space Launch System (SLS) gets closer, more and more hardware is produced. In this multi-view, 60-second time-lapse video, NASA shows the creation of the 130-foot (39.6-meter) long liquid hydrogen fuel tank qualification unit at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

This qualification unit for the SLS core stage, which was completed last month, will be moved to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. There it will undergo structural testing to ensure flight-worthy tanks will be able to endure forces experience during launch.

In addition to the liquid hydrogen tanks, the SLS core stage will also have an oxygen tank. Together, the total length of the stage will be 212 feet (64.6 meters) long. For the flight-worthy units, four Space Shuttle-era RS-25 engines will be attached to the base. That, along with twin five-segment Solid Rocket Boosters, developed by Orbital ATK, will power the whole stack (with an upper stage and payload) toward orbit.

Currently, flight-worthy tank hardware is already under construction at other areas around Michoud.

The first flight, Exploration Mission-1, is expected to occur sometime in late 2018. It will send an unpiloted Orion spacecraft into space on a 3-week mission involving a retrograde orbit around the Moon. This will test all the systems necessary for the first crewed flight of SLS with Orion, slated to launch sometime between 2021 and 2023.

Video courtesy of NASA Marshall


Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

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