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First engine installed on Artemis 2 Moon rocket

The installation of RS-25 engine E2059 at the base of the core stage for NASA's second Space Launch System rocket. Credit: NASA

The installation of RS-25 engine E2059 at the base of the core stage for NASA’s second Space Launch System rocket. Credit: NASA

Technicians have installed the first engine on the core stage of the second Space Launch System rocket, which is tasked with sending the first people to the Moon in more than a half century.

The first of four RS-25 engines was installed Sept. 11 at the base of the 212-foot (65-meter) core stage of the SLS rocket at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Scheduled for no earlier than late 2024, the core stage, along with two massive solid rocket boosters, will provide the thrust required to get the Artemis 2 mission and its four-person crew into space.

RS-25 engine E2059. Credit: NASA

RS-25 engine E2059. Credit: NASA

Flying the Artemis 2 mission are NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen. Their 10-day mission will involve testing the Orion spacecraft in high Earth orbit before performing a free-return trajectory around the Moon.

According to NASA, the first RS-25 engine, serial No. E2059, was installed in position two at the base of the core stage. It, along with E2047, were used for space shuttle missions, according to NASA. The other two, E2062 and E2063, are new engines with previously flown hardware.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage. The four RS-25 engines are supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, which was recently acquired by L3 Harris Technologies. During launch the core stage engines fire for 8.5 minutes, consuming liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen at a rate of 1,500 gallons (5,678 liters) per second, according to NASA. Combined with the Northrop Grumman-provided solid rocket boosters, the SLS rocket lifts off with a thrust of about 8.8 million pounds.

NASA said the five major structures of the SLS core stage were joined earlier this year. Once the three remaining engines are installed, along with the propulsion and electrical systems within the structure, the core will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The process of stacking the entire 322-foot (98-meter) tall SLS rocket with its twin five-segment solid rocket boosters, core stage, interim cryogenic propellent stage and Orion spacecraft is expected to begin sometime next year.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Boeing was the prime contractor for the SLS rocket. It is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage. For clarification, Boeing is one of three prime contractors for SLS. The other two are Aerojet Rocketdyne (for the RS-25 engines) and Northrop Grumman (for the solid rocket boosters).

Video courtesy of NASA


Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

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