HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A major milestone for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is within reach. On Tuesday, Marshall Space Flight Center showed off an important piece of flight hardware.
The Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter (LVSA) is the largest piece of the SLS built at Marshall.
"We've built some small parts for the shuttle here before but nothing like this," said LVSA project lead Mindy Nettles.
This adapter separates the two propulsion units of the rocket.
"The core stage, which actually lifts us up into orbit, and the interim crown propulsion stage, which will go out and orbit around the moon," Nettles said.
"I mean, it's exciting for us. It's the biggest piece of flying hardware we have ever built, and we build a lot of hardware for space, but this will go on the rocket. We don't get a lot of opportunities to build a new rocket, so it's really important for us to be a part of this new rocket," said Reggie Spivey, director of Teledyne Brown Engineering.
"To see it here today, it's a relief and it's a proud moment for our team and looking forward to seeing it fly," said NASA's material and manufacturing branch lead, Jon Street.
It took about four to six weeks for a crew of 30 engineers to weld each circular piece together.
"So we squeeze the two materials together, rotate it and travel. Then when we are done at the end, we pull the thing out and there is a hole at the end of the well, which in the dry structure. They just install a bolt and close it out," Street said.
They used a totally new tooling concept to piece the cylinder together, which actually saved them time and $5 million.
What's next for the LVSA is to get a thermal insulation coat sprayed on by hand to protect the structure.
"As you apply this material, it is time sensitive so each pass of the material has to be placed within 60 seconds of the previous pass," said NASA's materials engineer, Amy Buck.
It will then be shipped off to the Kennedy Center in Florida and set to fly on the first test flight in late 2019.
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