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Nasa's space launch system 1

Nasa's Space Launch System in pictures

Image credit: Cover Image/Nasa

A crucial element of the US space agency’s massive new rocket has rolled out of the assembly plant ready for testing.

Nasa has shown off the completed core section of its first SLS super-heavy-lift rocket. The huge Space Launch System core was wheeled out of Nasa’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans last month for transfer by barge to a test site in Mississippi. The SLS will play a crucial role in Nasa’s Artemis programme, which aims to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Nasa's space launch system 1

The SLS core stage, complete with its four RS-25 engines, is guided towards the Pegasus barge

Image credit: Cover Image/Nasa

The huge core stage is nearly 65m long and 8.4m in diameter and is designed to lift the rocket to 160,000m before separating from the upper stage and crew capsule. It was built by Boeing as prime contractor for the stage, including avionics, with engines supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

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The core stage will provide thrust for the Artemis I Moon mission

Image credit: Cover Image/Nasa

It has now been moved to Nasa’s Stennis Space Center for hardware testing ahead of the first Artemis launch.

This could happen before the end of the year if all goes well, though the programme has suffered many delays and cost over-runs.

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Michoud staff in a 'family photo' to mark the departure

Image credit: Cover Image/Nasa

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