NASA’s busy building the most powerful rocket ever. To make that goal a reality, NASA unveiled the Vertical Assembly Center. It’s a 170 foot tall welding tool that will weld together the 200 foot plus core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS is being designed to take humans where no human has ever been before.

“The rocket is a game changer in terms of deep space exploration and will launch NASA astronauts to investigate asteroids and explore the surface of Mars while opening new possibilities for science missions as well,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

The Vertical Assembly Center is just one tool NASA engineers will use to piece together the massive rocket. Once completed the SLS will stand at nearly 400 feet tall.

“The SLS Program continues to make significant progress,” said SLS program manager Todd May.

“The core stage and boosters have both completed critical design review,” May added.

Putting together the SLS will happen relatively quickly. A test flight is being prepared and will take place in December. Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center have completed the crew module for the Orion spacecraft that the SLS will carry in December. Observing how the crew module reacts during the test flight will be an integral part of the test.

The crew module will be empty during the test flight. But, NASA plans for the SLS to have its first flight by 2018.

Image credit: NASA

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