NASA has posted a 360-degree video of its “megarocket” that could be on its way to the moon by the end of this year.
The footage was captured inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and shows the 64-meter-tall (212 feet) core stage of its next-generation SLS rocket being positioned between two side boosters in preparation for launch. The core stage will form part of an enormous 98.1-meter-tall (322 feet) two-stage rocket when it’s fully built, making it several meters taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The video shows the booster being hoisted directly over the 360 camera, allowing viewers to peer up at the rocket’s engine nozzles that will one day blast out millions of pounds of thrust to push the SLS vehicle — one of the most powerful rockets ever built — toward space.
The rocket in NASA’s 360 video will be part of the crewless Artemis 1 mission that will act as a test run for upcoming astronaut flights to the moon. Artemis 1 will carry the Orion spacecraft to space for a flyby of the moon before it returns to Earth. The mission is expected to take place between November this year and March 2022.
Following that, Artemis 2, which it’s hoped will lift off in 2023, will send astronauts on a flyby of the moon, while Artemis 3, currently set for 2024, will aim to put humans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
In the long term, NASA’s ambitious Artemis Program is also aiming to build a space station in lunar orbit and even a habitable base on the moon, with future crewed missions to Mars also part of the plan.
The Artemis Program involves major collaborations between NASA and a range of commercial companies, SpaceX among them, to design and build the technology that can help it realize these plans.
NASA recently posted a time-lapse video of the same assembly procedure shown in its 360 video. The time-lapse footage shows the delicate maneuver from multiple angles, giving us an even clearer look at the core stage as the SLS rocket gradually comes together at the Kennedy Space Center.