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Key parts of NASA's Space Launch System built, tested in Mississippi

WAPT Jackson logo WAPT Jackson 7/20/2021
stennis © WAPT stennis

Elements of the most powerful rocket in the world are being assembled and tested in Mississippi as the U.S. returns to the moon.

Americans have been traveling into space for 60 years, but much of the work to get there starts in Hancock County. The key parts of NASA's Space Launch System, or SLS, are being built and tested at Stennis Space Center. Stennis has been at the center of America's development of space vehicles since the Apollo missions.

The center's B-2 Stand was used to test the Saturn V rocket stages that took Americans to the moon. And all of the space shuttle's main engines were tested at Stennis, through the entire 34 years of the program. The RS-25 engines, with all their history -- and now added technology -- will power the Artemis missions, with more than 2 million pounds of thrust.

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"This engine has flown into space. What we're doing with this engine at this point, is we're repurposing it, modifying it. We added some additional, propulsion, power to it," said Michael McDaniel, Aerojet Rocketdyne SSC general manager.

They are refitting and upgrading the RS-25 engine and making it part of the most powerful rocket in the world.

"We've added about 40,000 pounds of more thrust to it and we've taken about 40% cost out of them," McDaniel said.

Four of the RS-25s will be arranged at the bottom of the SLS, which is also fitted with two solid rocket boosters. The 212-foot-tall core stage and upper stage are topped with the Orion crew vehicle.

Three Artemis missions are set. Artemis 1 is an un-crewed flight that will test the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft together. It's set to launch later this year.

Artemis 2 will be a mission with a crew, sending astronauts into orbit around the moon and the furthest point into outer space.

In 2024, Artemis 3 will fly.

"This one is going to put the first woman and the next man on the moon," McDaniel said.

But before all that happens, back in Mississippi, the massive core stage was tested earlier this year with a hot fire green run at the B-Test Complex. And engines are still being tested.

"This is the A-1 test facility. That is one of the RS-25 engines that you got to see this morning in the assembly building," said Ryan Roberts, Stennis B-2 Test stand director said during a recent interview at the space center with 16 WAPT News.

"Transport it here on a truck, we lift it up, install it into the test stand with a crane. It's put into this test position. This is an engine deck here, so this will roll back here. Below us, far below that engine deck down below, is a flame deflector," Roberts said.

Fifteen engines from the shuttle program will power the first four Artemis missions, along with one very special engine to the people at Stennis.

"This Engine 2063 was built at Stennis facilities, Mississippi facilities, Mississippi labor, employees, Mississippi paperwork, planning. we assembled it here...tested it on the test stand, flight certified, tested on the first time through. and that engine is gonna be on Artemis 2, carrying the first humans on the Artemis mission," McDaniel said.

The next generation of RS-25 engines will be built in Mississippi and created with state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing.

This is the first of a series of special reports by 16 WAPT's Troy Johnson and Chief Photographer Lamonte Brown.

READ THE FULL STORY:Key parts of NASA's Space Launch System built, tested in Mississippi

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