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SLS Core Stage Pathfinder arrives at Kennedy

(30 September 2019 - NASA Kennedy) NASA’s Pegasus Barge arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 27, carrying the 212-foot-long core stage pathfinder for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Weighing in at 228,000 pounds, the pathfinder is a full-scale mock-up of the rocket’s core stage and will be used to validate ground support equipment and demonstrate it can be integrated with Kennedy facilities.

After arriving at the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf – a docking area initially used during the Space Shuttle Program that has been modified to accommodate SLS hardware deliveries – the pathfinder was moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on Sept. 30, where it will remain for testing for about one month.

While in the VAB, pathfinder will provide NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and contractor Jacobs with the opportunity to practice stacking maneuvers in the VAB’s High Bay 3 prior to the arrival of the SLS flight hardware that will be processed for the agency’s Artemis I mission.

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NASA’s Pegasus Barge arrives at the Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 27 to make its first delivery to Kennedy in support of the agency’s Artemis missions. (courtesy: NASA/Mike Downs)

“This will help ensure that all core stage engineers and technicians are trained and certified in preparation for the flight core stage processing,” said Jim Bolton, EGS core stage element operations manager at Kennedy. “It’s a very significant milestone that will demonstrate the capabilities and ability for KSC to receive, process and integrate that flight hardware.”

The core stage – the largest rocket stage in the world and the backbone of SLS – will provide the power necessary to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit and to the Moon. Before it can be brought to Kennedy for processing, the core stage will undergo its first full test with all flight hardware, known as a green run, at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Following this, Pegasus will make its return journey to Kennedy in 2020 – this time, delivering the SLS core stage for launch.