NASA has loaded its Space Launch System (SLS) core stage rocket onto the Pegasus Barge.
The barge will ferry it from the Agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
During the space shuttle era, the barge was responsible for carrying the spacecraft.
To move a big rocket, you need an even bigger barge.
NASA's premier rocket-mover, the Pegasus Barge, is up to the task. This past weekend, the NASA loaded the SLS core stage rocket—part of the Artemis program, which could carry the first woman and next man to the moon—onto the modified barge.
Originally built in 1999 to shuffle the space shuttles’ external tanks back and forth between space centers, the Pegasus Barge is finding new life in transporting the agency’s newest and most powerful rocket to date. It replaced both the Poseidon and Orion barges, which shuttled Saturn IV rocket stages to their destination during the Apollo program. In fact, the SLS core stage rocket will follow the exact path that the famed Apollo-era rocket took.
The core stage is approximately 212 feet long and has a diameter of 27.6 feet. There will be four test articles towed on the tug boat-powered barge: an engine section (with four compact car-size RS-25 engines), a liquid hydrogen tank, a liquid oxygen tank, and the intertank.
You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
In the last decade, the barge has undergone significant renovations in order to accommodate the new rocket. In 2014, a 115-foot section of the barge was replaced by a larger, 165-foot section designed to carry longer, heavier loads, according to NASA. Pegasus’ modifications wrapped in 2015, and the barge was tested for the first time two years later.
Once the SLS core stage arrives at Stennis, it will be hoisted up onto the B-2 test stand and subjected to a number of tests of its avionics, propulsion systems, and four RS-25 engines. Eventually, the Pegasus Barge and SLS core stage will embark on a six-day trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, NASA engineers will begin to assemble the rocket and ready it for launch in the mid-2020s, barring any additional delays.
While NASA intended for the SLS to return a crewed mission to the moon, the project has been plagued by delays. In May 2019, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine relented that it may cede the honor to a commercial company after all.
⚓️ Pegasus Barge by the Numbers ⚓️
Year built: 1999
Length: 310 feet (Previously 260 feet)
Width: 50 feet
On-board Power: Three 200 kilowatt generators
Distance from Michoud Assembly Facility to Stennis Space Center: 40 miles
ETA: 9 hours
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