HomeNASABoeing increasing SLS Core Stage manufacturing to KSC to construct Artemis stock

Boeing increasing SLS Core Stage manufacturing to KSC to construct Artemis stock

Boeing, the prime contractor for NASA’s House Launch System (SLS) Core Stage, is including two new work areas on the company’s Kennedy House Heart (KSC) in Florida as the corporate seems to help will increase within the manufacturing price of the launch automobile. The finished engine part construction for the third Core Stage is being transported by barge from NASA’s Michoud Meeting Facility (MAF) in New Orleans to KSC, the place Boeing will now outfit essentially the most difficult factor of the SLS contained in the House Station Processing Facility (SSPF).

After the remainder of the third Core Stage unit is accomplished at Michoud, it’ll even be barged to KSC, the place last meeting will likely be shifting into Excessive Bay 2 of the Automobile Meeting Constructing (VAB) at KSC. The massive quantity of the VAB Excessive Bay will enable Boeing to retailer accomplished Core Phases with out interfering with persevering with manufacturing, which frees up extra space at Michoud to broaden operations there for manufacturing of the brand new Exploration Higher Stage (EUS) for the following technology of the SLS automobile.

Establishing KSC Worksites to Develop Total Manufacturing

The preliminary aim for the SLS program is to achieve a flight price of 1 launch per yr, however NASA and its prime contractors for the automobile studied for a very long time how you can improve the manufacturing of its boosters, engines, and levels to achieve increased flight charges. Boeing’s enlargement of Core Stage manufacturing to Florida was born out of these persevering with discussions.

“NASA had requested us to do some research on growing a course of to ship one and a half cores per yr or three each two years and in addition as much as two per yr,” John Shannon, Boeing’s Vice President and Program Supervisor for SLS, stated in a Dec. 6 interview with NASASpaceflight. “Operations at MAF [are] going extraordinarily nicely. We realized so much about how you can assemble the automobile, what it takes in the course of the Core Stage-1 and now Core Stage-2 builds.”

SLS efficiently accomplished its first launch on Nov. 16, sending NASA’s human-rated Orion spacecraft on the Artemis I mission to orbit the Moon. The Block 1 configuration of the automobile, which launched Artemis I, makes use of a modified model of United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV higher stage; nonetheless, NASA and Boeing are growing an in-house improve known as the Exploration Higher Stage (EUS), which can also be being manufactured and assembled at Michoud.

The Core Stage-3 engine part construction being loaded on the Pegasus barge at MAF on Dec 4. (Credit score: NASA/Michael DeMocker)

The Block 1B automobile will mix EUS with the Core Stage and Boosters to extend trans-lunar payload efficiency from 27 metric tons to not less than 38. Boeing needed to issue within the overlapping, multi-phase manufacturing of each levels when contemplating how you can improve supply charges. “We did facility research, and with the addition of your entire Exploration Higher Stage set of tooling and meeting processes, it’s actually tight within the manufacturing unit to have the ability to get two Core Phases out per yr,” Shannon stated. “So we began wanting round [at] our choices.”

Shannon stated that constructing new services at Michoud was possible however “expensive.” “We additionally needed to cut back the general value of the rocket — we’ve been engaged on affordability so much, so we form of turned our eyes to KSC as a result of there’s some actually top-flight services that had been being underused or not used in any respect,” he famous.

“I used to be acquainted with them from time within the [Space] Shuttle program and the ISS (Worldwide House Station) program, and so we began speaking to KSC, and we labored out a possibility for us to begin utilizing the House Station Processing Facility (SSPF),” Shannon defined. Shannon was Program Supervisor for each applications, serving as NASA’s Program Supervisor for the House Shuttle on the finish of this system and as Boeing’s ISS Program Supervisor earlier than managing Boeing’s SLS Program.

Starting with Core Stage-3, Boeing is shifting the outfitting and integration of all of the Principal Propulsion System (MPS) tools contained in the engine part construction to the clear room surroundings on the SSPF. As well as, they are going to stack accomplished engine sections with the remainder of the stage in VAB Excessive Bay 2 after it’s accomplished at Michoud and transported to Florida.

“We checked out [the KSC expansion plan] somewhat extra and stated that we’re additionally going to want a spot to retailer Core Phases, and we appeared on the VAB,” Shannon stated. “Excessive Bay 2 hasn’t been utilized in a really very long time, so we made a proposal to NASA to go do some demolition in Excessive Bay 2, improve the crane, and construct some pedestals in there.”

Shannon defined that Boeing will use the area in Excessive Bay 2 in two methods. “One is to retailer completed Core Phases in Excessive Bay 2, and the opposite one is the power to take [the other] four-fifths of the rocket and mate it to an engine part,” he stated.

The opposite 4 of the 5 main components of the Core Stage are, from prime to backside, the ahead skirt, the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank, the intertank, and the liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank. Present manufacturing at MAF assembles and outfits these 4 components individually first after which joins them collectively right into a “four-fifths” meeting; when the engine part is accomplished, it’s mated to the underside of the LH2 tank to start the ultimate part of general stage meeting.

“So we stated if we are able to deliver down some engine sections, do some integration within the SSPF, after which deliver down the 4/5ths that’s accomplished from Michoud, then we are able to do the stacking inside the VAB Excessive Bay 2 and actually shorten our manufacturing time,” Shannon identified. Boeing estimates each per-unit cost-savings and a rise in manufacturing price.

“We’re estimating round 50 million {dollars} [of savings] per Core, and we are able to do greater than two Core Phases per yr by using the extra services,” Shannon stated.

Credit score: NASA/Jude Guidry.

(Picture Caption: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine seems on the Artemis I engine part when it was in manufacturing at MAF in August 2018. He’s wanting by means of the highest of the clean-room environmental enclosure that needs to be arrange and damaged down throughout integration at MAF. Within the SSPF at KSC, your entire excessive bay is maintained at a 100k cleanliness stage, which ought to get rid of the necessity to construct up and break down smaller enclosures round totally different elements of the engine part.)

He famous that Boeing took the outcomes of this research and their suggestions to NASA and their different stakeholders earlier within the yr. “We had proposed it to NASA over {the summertime} [and] stated that is actually the one approach we are able to get to a two-plus a yr [production] price,” Shannon stated.

“We requested to get the power to get into Excessive Bay 2, so Boeing stated we’ll tackle the price of doing the mods to the excessive bay. The SSPF we actually didn’t should do mods to, however we confirmed NASA that this can be a higher technique to cut back the price of the automobile by lowering manufacturing time considerably. We’re in a mode of attempting to avoid wasting prices now that we perceive how you can produce the automobile, so NASA was all on board with doing that.”

Shannon stated that Boeing additionally consulted with their stakeholders in Louisiana concerning the impression of the proposed adjustments at Michoud. “We defined to them that this isn’t taking any jobs out of Louisiana, it’s truly growing the manufacturing price at Michoud, together with giving us the area to do the higher stage work, so we’re going to finish up hiring extra individuals there, in order that they had been proud of it, as nicely,” he stated.

“It made sense all the way in which round, after which it was simply ensuring that we had all of our logistics lined to have the ability to ship engine sections and get the elements there and be capable to rent up the appropriate crew to have the ability to do the meeting. For the long-term well being of this system, this can be a very optimistic transfer.”

Engine Part Integration in SSPF

Work to outfit engine sections with all their inner tools and most of their exterior thermal safety system (TPS) is already within the technique of shifting to the House Station Processing Facility at KSC. Structural meeting of engine sections will proceed at MAF in New Orleans, the place all the friction-stir welding and bolted-assembly instruments are in place.

The engine part construction of the factor consists of a welded barrel, a welded mating ring, and a bolted thrust construction; the barrel and ring are then bolted to the thrust construction in a flooring meeting jig (FAJ) at MAF. Hundreds of bolts structurally combine the barrel and the thrust construction whereas it’s within the jig, and a few secondary buildings like brackets to carry electrical wiring and different tools are additionally added throughout this part of meeting.

The Core Stage-3 engine part has accomplished its structural meeting at MAF, and on Dec. 4,  the construction was rolled out of the rocket manufacturing unit in New Orleans and onto NASA’s Pegasus barge docked at Michoud to be transported to KSC. “[The engine section] shouldn’t be shipped with the boattail on it, however it’s shipped with all the key buildings in it and the thrust construction put in, so from a structural construct standpoint, it’s so far as we are able to go at MAF,” Shannon stated. “After we would usually get right into a clear room surroundings, that’s once we ship it to KSC for integration.”

Credit score: NASA/Glenn Benson.

(Picture Caption: The Artemis I Orion Stage Adapter is obtained within the House Station Processing Facility in April 2018. Boeing has allotted two of the eight massive work space “footprints” on the SSPF excessive bay flooring for Core Stage engine part integration work. The Core Stage-3 engine part will likely be positioned in Space 5, which is positioned on the appropriate the place the massive American flag is. Space 7 is adjoining and behind that space on the appropriate; work on the Core Stage-4 engine part will start there subsequent yr after it’s transported to KSC.)

The SSPF excessive bay is a big clear room space for processing spaceflight tools, which made it very interesting as a location to broaden engine part manufacturing. “It’s an enormous facility that could be a ‘100K’ clear room, and it has an airlock within the entrance of it the place you deliver massive items there, clear them, after which you possibly can take them into this clear room,” Shannon defined. “We began enthusiastic about that and realized that if we might do a few of our last engine part integration work there, then we’d alleviate ourselves from having to construct all the clear areas and the areas which are all shrouded by plastic and such that we’ve got the purges getting into, which saves an enormous period of time.”

In the course of the outfitting/integration of the primary two Core Stage engine sections at MAF, the clear space enclosures had been arrange proper across the flight {hardware} and would have to be damaged down after which rebuilt to permit MPS tools to be “flown” inside — lifted and lowered inside by crane. A big cowl with the identical 8.4-meter diameter because the engine part sealed the highest of the clear space.

“We’ve bought that large bathe cap excessive, and each time that we fly any {hardware} into the engine part, we take that cap off, after which we fly [the MPS hardware] in there, after which we put the cap again on, after which we’ve bought to undergo the purge cycle to get it again to a clear room surroundings,” Shannon stated. “You don’t should do any of that [in the SSPF] at KSC; as soon as it comes by means of that airlock, it’s in a clear room surroundings, and also you’re capable of do all of meeting and all your work — you’re not ready round for the purge system to do its factor.”

As soon as Pegasus arrives on the KSC Flip Basin, Shannon stated the construction will likely be rolled off the barge and rolled down the street to the SSPF: “We’ll offload it, clear it within the airlock [at the SSPF], and set it up within the tooling that’s arrange contained in the SSPF and get to work on it.”

The engine part for Core Stage-3 is the primary to be built-in at KSC, however Boeing has reserved flooring area within the SSPF excessive bay for simultaneous work on a second one starting subsequent yr with the engine part construction for Core Stage-4. “The ground is marked out into eight large rectangles,” Shannon stated. “Proper now, we’ve bought rectangle quantity 5 to place all of our tooling, and we’ve bought the crew with their computer systems doing ship-side help, and so they replenish that space fairly nicely. We are able to additionally do some offline work on some subcomponents that we fly into the engine part.”

“After which subsequent July, we’re going to have part seven, which is the farthest again rectangle on the right-hand aspect in case you’re wanting on the again wall. So 5 and 7 will likely be side-by-side, so we’ll have engine part three and engine part 4 being constructed on the similar time again there.”

The engine part, the place the powerheads of the 4 RS-25 engines and all of the supporting MPS tools come collectively, is essentially the most difficult factor of the SLS automobile as a complete and the Core Stage particularly. At KSC, all the wire harness runs for the electronics will likely be laid out and finally interconnected. All the pneumatic, hydraulic, and cryogenic tubing may also be welded and bolted collectively, together with the set up of instrumentation and avionics.

Later in integration offline subassemblies just like the 4 thrust vector management (TVC) platforms that carry the hydraulic methods tools and the 5 massive helium composite overwrapped strain vessel (COPV) bottles for the MPS pneumatic system will likely be “flown” by cranes into the engine part for set up. The engine part will undergo a standalone useful check after which, when it’s able to be mated to the remainder of the Core Stage, it is going to be lined up, rolled out of the SSPF, and pushed up the street to VAB Excessive Bay 2.

VAB Excessive Bay 2 Has Room for Core Stage Storage and Vertical Stacking

Whereas the primary engine part integration will start within the SSPF, Boeing may also be working to outfit and configure VAB Excessive Bay 2 for last meeting of a full Core Stage and storage of one other. Excessive Bay 2 was maintained as a “hurricane shelter” storage location for a accomplished House Shuttle stack during the last decade of this system; after Shuttle was retired, NASA leased the excessive bay to Northrop Grumman for launch integration of its OmegA industrial launch automobile.

Cancellation of the OmegA program in 2020 left the excessive bay once more open for a industrial companion, and Boeing is now starting work to show it right into a last meeting and storage space for SLS Core Phases.

Credit: NASA/Invoice White (left) and Kim Shiflett (proper).

(Picture Caption: VAB Excessive Bay 2 as seen in 2017 and 2019. Two of the House Shuttle Exterior Tank checkout and storage cells will be seen on the left-hand, north wall of the excessive bay. Boeing is planning to transform a few of that infrastructure right into a storage cell for accomplished Core Phases. A processing cell to help last meeting of one other Core Stage will likely be created on the right-hand, south wall. Boeing may also be refurbishing the yellow, 325-ton crane that providers Excessive Bays 1 and a couple of which will be seen on the far left hooked up to a proof load fixture.)

In the course of the House Shuttle program, NASA had 4 storage/checkout cells for Exterior Tanks (ET) adjoining the tower construction between VAB Excessive Bays 2 and 4, Tower B. Every of the 4 excessive bays is flanked by towers; Excessive Bay 2 has Tower B on its north wall and Tower A on its south wall. Shannon stated that a few of the checkout cell infrastructure will likely be retained on the north Tower B aspect for storing one Core Stage, however Boeing may also develop last meeting processing cell on the south Tower A aspect.

“The diameter clearly is identical between the levels and the ET, so we’re going to depart a few of the platforms in,” he stated. “There was an previous [Mobile Launch Platform] that we’re going to finish up [demolishing], we’re going to have to repair up the crane, and we’re going to should construct a pedestal.”

“For essentially the most half, it’s not an enormous quantity of labor; we’ll use each the north wall and the south wall of Excessive Bay 2 to suit two Core Phases in there. We’ll use present platforms and construct scaffolding off of that to get entry, and we’ll have a very nice place to retailer our Core Phases form of out of [the] approach within the VAB but additionally the place we are able to work on them and get them prepped as much as be moved over to Excessive Bay 3 when wanted.”

Boeing spokesperson Megan Gessner famous in an e-mail: “Core Stage 3+ processing will likely be on the A tower aspect and include a base pedestal system and a number of platforms to entry the automobile internally and externally. A further pedestal stand will likely be emplaced on the Tower B aspect and have the potential to face up a Core Stage vertically.”

“This Tower B aspect will present entry to the engine part quantity and partial entry to different volumes internally and externally through numerous ranges of present ET check-out cell platforms,” Gessner added.

Boeing will likely be working with a frequent companion, Futuramic, on the brand new tooling to help each vertical storage and last meeting of Core Phases. Shannon was planning to start discussions with them quickly: “I’m going to thank [Futuramic] for all their help to Artemis I first, after which we’re going to undergo the design of the pedestals and tooling,” he stated.

Boeing hopes to have an preliminary set of tooling by the center of 2023. “The (demolition) contracts have been let, and I feel that work will likely be beginning fairly quickly,” Shannon added.

Credit score: Philip Sloss for NSF.

(Picture Caption: Placard as seen coming into the VAB in 2012. Boeing will outfit a storage cell for a accomplished Core Stage on the north Tower B aspect of Excessive Bay 2 and a processing cell for ending meeting of Core Stage components on the south Tower A aspect.)

The preliminary use of the tooling could possibly be as early because the third quarter of 2023, demonstrating the vertical storage capabilities of VAB Excessive Bay 2. Work continues at Michoud on {hardware} for the following three cores, together with the completion of Core Stage-2 within the first half of 2023.

“We’re ending our last testing on the engine part; we’ll rotate it proper after Christmas,” Shannon stated. “You are taking it over to the Constructing 110 space, [and] you add the massive weights on it to counter-balance it.”

After the engine part is rotated from its vertical orientation with its counter-balancing construction hooked up to horizontal, it is going to be introduced again to the ultimate meeting space at MAF and mated to the remainder of Core Stage-2. “We’ll rotate it, deliver it again over, and [after mating it to the rest of the stage] do checkouts, engine installs, and all the ultimate TPS work on it, after which first half of subsequent yr we’ll be rolling Core Stage 2 out,” Shannon stated.

“That’s nicely forward of the necessity date for Artemis II for different causes, and so we’ll take it to KSC and it’ll be within the [VAB] Switch Aisle for some sequence of months.” Whereas it may be doable to retailer the finished second Core Stage that will likely be used on the Artemis II mission, there aren’t many locations even on the massive services at Michoud to place it with out interfering with the continuing work on {hardware} for the third and fourth builds.

“It’s a great drawback to have, however we understand there’s some pinch factors within the manufacturing unit circulation [at Michoud] to have a number of, nearly full-size, 212-foot automobiles maneuvering round, and so that is actually going to assist us,” Shannon famous. Even inside the massive confines of the VAB, storing Core Stage-2 on its aspect within the Switch Aisle takes up numerous flooring area; as soon as the VAB crane for Excessive Bay 2 is upgraded and the brand new tooling is prepared, the plan is to carry the stage, rotate it to vertical, and put it within the new storage cell on the north wall of the excessive bay.

“We’ll do some work within the Switch Aisle [on Core Stage-2], however then we’ll stand it up in Excessive Bay 2 and end each bit of labor that needs to be carried out on it,” Shannon stated. “So once we carry the Core Stage over to Excessive Bay 3 and we mate it to the Boosters [for Artemis II], it’s a utterly completed, ready-to-go Core Stage, and we don’t should do a few of the work that we needed to do on Artemis I’s automobile.”

Credit score: NASA/Michael DeMocker.

(Picture Caption: The Core Stage-3 engine part construction is moved at MAF on Nov. 7 to be ready for cargo to KSC. Within the background, the construction of the Core Stage-4 engine part is seen in a flooring meeting jig, the place the barrel, ring, and thrust construction are being bolted collectively.  That unit could possibly be shipped to KSC as quickly as subsequent July to start its integration.)

Relying on the provision of the brand new storage cell and the mixing schedule for Artemis II, Core Stage-2 could possibly be in storage vertically in VAB Excessive Bay 2 for a number of months or longer. To extend Core Stage manufacturing past the one unit wanted for the preliminary flight price, Boeing is seeking to construct a small stock of those massive rocket levels within the VAB for NASA’s Artemis launch schedule.

“We need to get forward by a few Cores from the manifest, and I feel most likely by the Artemis V or VI timeframe, we’ll be capable to try this,” Shannon stated.

Workforce Hiring at MAF and KSC to Help Manufacturing Enlargement

The addition of a second Core Stage manufacturing web site at KSC would require a rise within the workforce at each areas. “We’re actually not impacting the workforce at MAF; we’re truly staffing up there as a result of whenever you do that, it lets you get extra automobiles in circulation, and in case you have extra automobiles in circulation, you want a bigger workforce to try this at Michoud,” Shannon stated.

Michoud will nonetheless be utterly assembling and mating the opposite 4 main Core Stage components, and Boeing is including your entire EUS manufacturing cycle to that work. “The plan proper now could be to complete four-fifths of the rockets utterly [and] additionally to complete the EUS utterly earlier than we ship [them] of [Michoud],” Shannon stated.

“And I’d even say there’s the potential down the street that we’ll have two engine sections in work on the SSPF and two engine sections in work at Michoud if we’ve got a technique to jockey the area round to help that, however proper now we expect simply from a flooring area use standpoint that will be somewhat tougher to do.”

Shannon additionally famous that the Michoud workforce in New Orleans plans to remain. “There are only a few people who work at MAF which are shifting to Kennedy House Heart,” he stated. “Most people working at MAF like working at MAF. We’ve actually tried to concentrate on hiring native expertise in Louisiana. That’s the place they’re from, the place they wish to work, in order that they’re staying.”

As Boeing transitions from design to preliminary manufacturing of EUS flight and check {hardware} for its first flight, they’re waiting for having each the liquid levels for the Block 1B automobile in full manufacturing on the similar time. “We’re growing the variety of individuals at MAF by about 125 individuals, and that’s to help the extra automobiles that we’ve bought beneath circulation and in addition to do the Exploration Higher Stage work, in order that they’re totally staffed and going up somewhat bit,” Shannon stated.

Credit score: NASA/Eric Bordelon.

(Picture Caption: The highest “four-fifths” of Core Stage-2 are seen after they had been joined in March; from left/aft to proper/ahead are the LH2 tank, intertank, LOX tank, and ahead skirt. Boeing will proceed to completely outfit the 4 components individually after which bolt and join them at MAF. Starting with Core Stage-3, the “four-fifths” assemblies will then be shipped to KSC the place they are going to be hooked up to engine sections within the VAB.)

Boeing already has a big presence on the House Coast, with the headquarters of its House and Launch Division in Titusville, Florida; the workforce at KSC may also broaden. “We had a reasonably good Boeing footprint down there supporting different automobiles, like Industrial Crew [Starliner] or X-37; they’re obtainable to us, and we’re additionally hiring individuals,” Shannon stated.

Shannon additionally famous that they’d added individuals in Florida to help the trouble to launch Artemis I, and so they is also part of the brand new Core Stage work at KSC on the engine sections within the SSPF and the complete levels within the VAB. “It’s actually about 145 at KSC for what we’ve got [planned] now, and that will go up somewhat bit as soon as we get Core Stage 4’s engine part there,” he stated. “However proper now, our goal is about 145 individuals.”

When it comes to logistics and help, Boeing will transfer present tooling to KSC, however Michoud will stay central to the logistics provide chain. “We’re nonetheless kitting the elements at Michoud, so we’re not altering the place the suppliers ship the {hardware},” Shannon stated. “We’ve a reasonably intricate and mature system for kitting the totally different items at Michoud, after which we ship them by truck to Kennedy, the place they’re inspected earlier than they go into the SSPF after which get put in.”

“We’ve modified a constructing at KSC the place we are able to take [support] {hardware} in, do the inspections, after which get it over to the SSPF.”

(Lead picture: The Core Stage engine part for Artemis III on board Pegasus for transport to KSC. Credit score: NASA)



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