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A day in the life at NASA: Moving the world’s most powerful rocket

CH2M engineers supporting the Marshall Space Flight Center are tasked with developing procedures and training operators for the complex task to transport the core stage.

NASA is best known for scientific discovery and innovation, staffed with distinguished engineers of all disciplines. Experts who quite literally conquer the impossible. But, even the world’s top scientists need a little help to bring epic plans to fruition.

In order to do that, logistics play a key element. CH2M engineers are responsible for moving rocket components as they are readied, so the spacecraft can liftoff to carry astronauts, supplies and satellites out of the Earth’s atmosphere. CH2M engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are planning for their biggest move yet. They’re preparing to move the largest rocket booster ever built.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is an advanced launch vehicle for a new era of exploration beyond Earth’s orbit, into deep space. SLS, the world’s most powerful rocket, will launch astronauts on missions to an asteroid and eventually to Mars, while opening new possibilities for other payloads, including robotic scientific missions to Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

SLS during launch (courtesy of NASA)

CH2M engineers supporting the Marshall Space Flight Center are at the tip of the spear in developing procedures and training operators for the complex task of moving the rocket. The core stage, known as the backbone of the SLS rocket, is the heart of this system. Towering more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, the core stage will contain 730,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will fuel the RS-25 engines for flight. The mass of the rocket’s core stage including the ground support equipment and transporters to move it weighs in at nearly one million pounds.

CH2M engineers are tasked with overcoming the challenges accompanying the monumental task of moving this national capability. A team of CH2M engineers are leading the effort to transport the core stage from Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for final integration and launch.

CH2M staff testing a heavy-lift transporter used to move the core stage from SSC to KSC (courtesy of NASA)

In addition to ground transportation, the CH2M team is also responsible for developing and planning the lifting of the core stage from its transportation system, rotating the booster to allow it to be vertically lifted by crane nearly 300 feet, and loading it into the B2 test stand at Stennis Space center near Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi for development and qualification testing.

This team exemplifies the core values, principles and purpose of CH2M by showing excellence in everything they accomplish at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

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