NASA rocket factory in Michoud completes test hardware for new deep-space rocket

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Michoud Assembly Facility, NASA's rocket factory, has completed test hardware for America's new deep-space rocket.

The hardware is an intertank for the rocket, which is called the Space Launch System. It will undergo critical testing in Huntsville, Alabama at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The test article will be moved on new ground support vehicles designed especially for transporting large rocket components.

Positioned between the rocket's two colossal fuel tanks, the intertank is a rigid structure that will connect the solid rocket boosters to the core stage, according to NASA. The intertank also houses much of the avionics computers and electronics that will control the rocket in flight.

According to NASA, the SLS will enable a new era of exploration beyond Earth's orbit, launching astronauts in NASA's Orion spacecraft on deep-space exploration missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars. The delivery and subsequent testing of the intertank will mark significant progress toward the rocket's first flight in 2019.

The intertank will be the second major core stage component built at Michoud and delivered to Marshall for testing. The engine section was delivered in May 2017, and Marshall engineers recently completed an extensive test series on the hardware. Delivery is scheduled later this year for the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks, according to the report.

Each test article, which is structurally identical to flight hardware, will undergo extensive structural testing to verify the rocket can withstand the extreme forces expected during launch and flight, NASA says.

According to the report, to ferry the test and flight hardware for SLS, NASA modified the barge Pegasus, increasing its length and weight-carrying capacity to carry the entire SLS core stage, which is 50 feet longer and more than 600,000 pounds heavier with support equipment than the space shuttle external tank.