Image: Liquid propellant tanks for NASA's powerful Space Launch System rocket

August 10, 2017, European Space Agency
Credit: NASA Michoud–J. Guidry

NASA's powerful Space Launch System rocket is a few steps closer to launching the Orion spacecraft now that its liquid propellant tanks are ready for testing.

Assembled by the world's largest robotic rocket welder at NASA's Michoud facility in New Orleans, USA, the liquid tank seen here is ready for qualification, while the remaining three tanks are being processed.

The tanks must prove they can do exactly what they were designed to do as well as pass structural testing. At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, they will be strapped to the engines and fired to check their performance under launch conditions.

The liquid oxygen and hydrogen tanks hold over 2.6 million litres of propellant to power the rocket's core stage that is comprised of four RS-25 engines and two solid rocket boosters.

Every bit of that thrust will be needed to propel the Orion beyond low orbit to the Moon and beyond, for which ESA is contributing the European Service Module (ESM).

Once in orbit, the ESM will provide the spacecraft with electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen as well as temperature control. A propulsion qualification module is being tested at the White Sands Test Facility in the US.

NASA's uncrewed Exploration Mission-1 will be launched from the historic pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, sending Orion some 70 000 km beyond the Moon before it returns to Earth.

Explore further: Video: Massive rocket fuel tank built in a minute

Related Stories

Video: Massive rocket fuel tank built in a minute

August 18, 2016

It took a lot longer than 60 seconds to weld the massive 130-foot rocket fuel tank. This time-lapse video shows the construction and rotation of the liquid hydrogen tank for the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System rocket—the ...

Recommended for you

Supersharp images from new VLT adaptive optics

July 18, 2018

ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) has achieved first light with a new adaptive optics mode called laser tomography—and has captured remarkably sharp test images of the planet Neptune and other objects. The MUSE instrument ...

Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'

July 17, 2018

Twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter have been found—11 "normal" outer moons, and one that they're calling an "oddball." This brings Jupiter's total number of known moons to a whopping 79—the most of any planet in our Solar ...

Astronomers find a famous exoplanet's doppelgänger

July 17, 2018

When it comes to extrasolar planets, appearances can be deceiving. Astronomers have imaged a new planet, and it appears nearly identical to one of the best studied gas-giant planets. But this doppelgänger differs in one ...

Dawn mission to gather more data in home stretch

July 17, 2018

As NASA's Dawn spacecraft prepares to wrap up its groundbreaking 11-year mission, which has included two successful extended missions at Ceres, it will continue to explore—collecting images and other data.

Brown dwarf detected in the CoRoT-20 system

July 16, 2018

An international group of astronomers has discovered a new substellar object in the planetary system CoRoT-20. The newly identified object was classified as a brown dwarf due to its mass, which is greater than that of the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.