After a ribbon cutting ceremony, The Vertical Assembly Center of NASA’s — a 170-foot-tall welding instrument — made its entrance in New Orleans, Louisiana on Friday (Sept. 12).
NASA will use the facility to weld more than 200-foot-tall core stage of the agency's Space Launch System (SLS), a huge rocket designed to bring humans into deep space – deeper than has ever been achieved.
"This rocket is a game changer in terms of deep space exploration and will launch NASA astronauts to investigate asteroids and explore the surface of Mars while opening new possibilities for science missions, as well,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony today. [See images of NASA's SLS rocket design]
NASA officials expect that the SLS will be set for its first flight no later than 2018. In its final configuration, the rocket will stand close to 400 feet tall (122 meters). For its first test flight, however, the rocket is expected to deliver an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit.
The Orion capsule is currently being assembled in Florida. It is designed astronaut crews to deep space destinations like Mars or an asteroid in orbit around the moon. Orion first test flight launch will be aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket this December.
Space.com. N.p., Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.