Spaceflight Insider

NASA completes manufacturing of SLS Stage Adapter Structural Test Article


The completed structural test article for the SLS Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter is hoisted above the MSFC production floor. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and prime contractor Teledyne Brown unveiled a completed structural test article of the Space Launch System’s (SLS) Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter (LVSA). The flight version of this hollow cone-shaped segment will connect the 8.4-meter-diameter SLS core stage to the 4.8-meter-diameter Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System (ICPS).

A segment of the Stage Adapter earlier in production at MSFC's Friction Stir Welding facility. (Image: NASA)

A segment of the Stage Adapter Structural Test Article earlier in production at MSFC’s Friction Stir Welding facility. Photo Credit: NASA

As part of the structural test, the Teledyne Brown-built test article will be stacked atop other test articles of the upper part of SLS to verify the integrity of the hardware and ensure that it can withstand the forces it will experience during flight.

According to Kimberly Henry in Marshall’s Public Affairs Office, the aluminum structured LVSA stands approximately 27 feet (8.4 meters) tall with a diameter of ∼27 feet (8.4 meters) on the aft end and ∼16 feet (4.8 meters) on the forward. Henry added, “Spray-on foam insulation will cover the exterior. The LVSA flight unit weight will weigh approximately five tons.”

The structure is a bit narrower than Orion (0.7 meters), so another adapter will be added above the ICPS to connect with Orion and ensure an aerodynamically smooth shape up the length of the rocket.

Teledyne Brown has been partnering with NASA under a Space Act Agreement to use Marshall’s massive Friction Stir Welding Tool to fabricate the Adapter.

According to Henry, “Components for the flight version of the LVSA are already in production, including the skin panel machining and forming.” The flight version of the Stage Adapter will be manufactured based on test data and hardware models developed at Marshall.

The 70-metric-ton capacity SLS vehicle is scheduled for its first test flight in late 2018, at which time it will launch an uncrewed test article of the Orion spacecraft on a flight around the Moon.


Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

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