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Barge Carries Rocket Upper Stage to NASA for Testing

NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center readied for a special delivery on Father’s Day– the Space Launch System Interim Cryogenic Stage (ICPS) –shipped on a barge from United Launch Alliance Decatur facilities for testing.

The ICPS test article will be mated to two adapters, the Launch Vehicle Spacecraft Adapter and an Orion Crew Vehicle Stage Adapter, to form an integrated system at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center. That process will help to verify the structural integrity of the ICPS to withstand the SLS’ launch and flyout loads.

“Testing is probably the most important part of building a rocket,” said Steve Creech, acting director of the Spacecraft and Payload Integration and Evolution Office at Marshall. “We look forward to the test series coming up, and continuing work on flight hardware that is currently in production for the ICPS, Orion stage adapter and LVSA.”

Boeing modified the existing ULA Delta Cryogenic Second Stage, used on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV family of launch vehicles, for the SLS. It will be powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL-10B2 engine — also currently used on the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage. Modifications to the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage include lengthening the liquid hydrogen tank, adding hydrazine bottles for attitude control and making some minor avionics changes to meet the design parameters and performance characteristics as needed by NASA to meet the flight objectives.

The test article was shipped along the Tennessee River even as the Boeing/ULA team works to complete production of the ICPS flight hardware that will launch on Exploration Mission 1 in 2018.

“We are making great progress on the flight hardware with our ULA and NASA partners,” said Cataldo Mazzola, Boeing ICPS test manager.

Boeing is responsible for the design, production, integration and testing of the cryogenic stages and avionics for the SLS.

The ICPS lies at the top of the SLS and just below the Orion capsule to give the Orion spacecraft the big push needed to fly beyond the moon.


NASA workers lift the upper stage following its barge transport to Marshall Spaceflight Center.