NASA’s Pegasus barge arrives at Kennedy Space Center with Artemis I Core Stage on board

After months of testing and years of delays in the development and construction processes. The parts of the first SLS rocket have finally all arrived at Kennedy Space Center for final assembly and checkouts.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) will be used to return mankind back to the Moon after nearly 50 years. This will be a part of the Artemis Program, a collection of missions that together will bring the next man and first woman to the Moon for a more sustainable stay.

While SLS is the least sustainable part of the program, it is the only rocket capable of launching the Orion capsule to lunar orbit and bring it back. As we speak, all the parts have arrived and are awaiting final assembly inside Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Currently, the only parts of SLS that have been stacked are the two Solid Rocket Boosters that the Core Stage will be attached two.

Artemis I SLS SRBs stacked inside the VAB. Credit/Isaac Watson

The Core Stage left Stennis Space Center after conducting its second hot fire test where it fired its four RS-25 engines for a full 8-minute test. This simulated an entire launch to prove that the engines and fuel systems are ready for the first uncrewed mission of the Artemis program.

Pegasus arrives

The massive rocket stage arrived on NASA’s historic Pegasus barge, which was originally built in 1999 to move the massive external tanks of the Space Shuttle from where they were manufactured at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility to Kennedy for launches. In 2014 it was lengthened and upgraded to carry more weight, in preparation for SLS. Now it carries the largest pieces of the SLS rocket around the country to their testing sites or final assembly locations.

Core Stage 1 arrived into Port Canaveral Tuesday midday, entering Port Canaveral then switching to river tugs that took it through the locks and up the Banana River to Kennedy Space Center’s Turning Basin, right next to the VAB. The Core Stage will be offloaded on Thursday and moved to the VAB for assembly with the rest of SLS.

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