April 2, 2023

Space Launch System rocket will propel an unmanned Orion capsule Landing on the Moon on the Artemis One mission It is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA. It weighs 5.75 million pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ready to launch, but will soar nearly 500 feet in just seven seconds.

NASA's SLS rocket
Illustration of the planned launch of NASA’s Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever built.


“I’m concerned that people think it’s routine,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told CBS News ahead of the highly anticipated first launch. “But when those candles go out, it’s never a routine. It’s been a high-wire show. .

emitted from Pad 39B At the Kennedy Space Center, a two-hour window is currently scheduled to open at 8:33 a.m. ET Monday.

Here are some notable facts and figures about NASA’s powered rockets:

fuel load and shrinkage

  • When loaded with 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, the massive fuel tank of the SLS core stage will shrink by about 6 inches in length and 1 inch in diameter. The rocket’s liquid oxygen tank will shrink by an inch and a half in length and about 1.3 inches in diameter.
  • Because of this shrinkage, everything connected to the tank – pipes and vents, brackets, etc. – had to be connected with accordion-like bellows to maintain flexibility.

retro processor

  • The core-level flight computer that controls every aspect of the rocket’s ascent into space uses the same type of Power PC microprocessor as the long-outdated G3 Macintosh Powerbook. However, specialized operating systems are much more efficient.

jumbo jet

  • Two million pounds of thrust from four RS-25 engines in the core stage can keep eight 747 jumbo jets flying. The two solid-fuel boosters each produce 3.6 million pounds of thrust to power 14 four-engine jumbo jets.


  • The energy output of the RS-25 engine, if converted to electricity, would power nearly 850,000 miles of streetlights on a road to the moon, before circling the Earth 15 more times.
  • These four engines provide twice as much power as 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers need to travel at 30 knots.

fire-breathing propellant

  • All four core stage engines consume 1,500 gallons of propellant per second, enough to expel an average 20,000-gallon swimming pool in 13 seconds.
  • The SLS rocket’s two solid-fuel boosters consume 5.5 tons of propellant per second. The heat generated by the booster in just two minutes of operation, if converted into electricity, would power 92,000 homes for a full day.

extremely hot

  • During a test launch at Northrop Grumman’s Utah plant, the exhaust from the rocket booster was hot enough to melt desert sand into glass.

Bolt blasting

  • The 5.75 million-pound SLS rocket is attached to the launch pad by eight massive bolts, four of which are located at the base of each solid rocket booster. When the booster fires, the explosives break the bolts and the SLS takes off.


  • During the first two minutes of flight, dual solid rocket boosters provided 75 percent of the SLS rocket’s total thrust, raising the vehicle to nearly 4,000 mph and an altitude of 27 miles.
  • When the rocket’s main engine shuts down eight minutes after liftoff, the rocket will be moving at about 18,000 mph. That’s enough to cover 88 football fields in one second, end to end. The upper stages of the rocket will increase the speed to 22,600 mph (110 football fields per second) to de-orbit the Earth and send the Orion capsule to the moon.

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