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See the giant crawler that will carry NASA’s mega moon rocket to the pad

NASA is continuing preparations for the testing and eventual launch of its “mega moon rocket,” or Space Launch System. This rocket is designed to eventually carry astronauts back to the moon under the Artemis program, but first, it will be put through its paces in the uncrewed Artemis I mission.

This week, NASA announced that it was getting ready for the rollout of the rocket, in which the rocket is transported four miles from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And if you’re wondering how exactly you transport a huge rocket that stands at 332 feet (98.1 meters) tall, then NASA has the answer for you: By using a massive crawling vehicle called the Crawler Transporter-2.

The  Crawler Transporter-2 at the doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida drove Crawler Transporter-2 on March 11, 2022, to the doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Soon, it will go inside the VAB where it will carry the Artemis I Moon rocket to launch pad 39B. NASA/Chad Siwik

“Earlier today, engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida drove Crawler Transporter-2, which will carry NASA’s Moon rocket to the launch pad, to the doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB),” NASA wrote on Friday, March 11. “Soon, the 6.6-million-pound crawler will go inside the VAB and slide under the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft placed on the Mobile Launcher. Technicians will finish up preparations to transport the rocket traveling at a top speed of 1 mph to Launch Complex 39B for a wet dress rehearsal test ahead of the Artemis I launch.”

To get the rocket ready for transport, NASA is retracting the 20 platforms which surround it and its Orion spacecraft. That way, it will be ready for the rollout which is scheduled for Thursday, March 17. The rocket will be taken to the launch pad and put through what is called a wet dress rehearsal. This is where everything is prepared as it would be for a real launch, and the rocket is filled with fuel. Then there will be a launch countdown, but the rocket engines won’t actually fire.

This is one of the final tests of the rocket to ensure it is ready for its Artemis I mission, which could go ahead as early as May this year.

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