Yes, the way we currently design rockets is pretty inefficient, but NASA is hard at work building the largest rocket in the world, and the agency recently released a bunch of photos of its construction and some impressive-looking tests.
Space Launch System, a very boring and generic name for a very badass rocket, isn’t going to have a full-fledged test launch until 2018, but NASA’s engineers are on track to hit that goal.
Construction on the rocket’s 212-foot-tall core stage, which is being done at New Orleans’ Michoud Assembly Facility, is well underway. Stage leader Joan Funk said the process was “similar to building a house.”
“With the massive, welded elements coming off the Vertical Assembly Center at Michoud, we’ve laid the foundation, framed the walls and put up the roof. The big items are in place,” she said in a NASA release. “Now it’s time to get to work on the inside.”
The core stage consists of five main parts: The forward skirt, the liquid oxygen tank, the liquid hydrogen tank, the engine section, and the intertank.
All of it is massive. The liquid oxygen tank, for example, is 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet.
Once it’s completed, NASA plans on conducting an unmanned test flight in 2018. After that, assuming all goes well, the SLS will propel a human in the Orion spacecraft further into space than any member of our species has been since the Apollo 13 mission. Mars could happen by the late 2030s.
Check out more photos of the SLS right here.