NASA’s SLS rocket is an engineering marvel. Here’s what each major component does

Aside from connecting Orion to SLS, the Orion stage adapter will also carry and deploy these 10 satellites into orbit after the Orion spacecraft is detached.

Interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS)

The ICPS, built by Boeing and United Launch Alliance, will provide in-space propulsion for Orion to send on its trajectory towards the moon and back.

NASA's SLS rocket is an engineering marvel. Here's what each major component does

The RL10 engine that will provide propulsion for the ICPS to boost Orion towards the moon.

Measuring 45 ft (13.7 m) tall and 16.7-foot (5.1 m) in diameter, it is a single-engine liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen-based system that will fire up after the solid rocket boosters and core stage have served their purpose and are jettisoned. The RL10B-2 engine will produce 24,750 pounds (110kN) of thrust to power Orion towards the moon.

Launch vehicle stage adapter

The 27.5-foot-tall (8.3-meters-tall) Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter covers and protects the ICPS’s RL10 engine throughout the launch. It also connects the ICPS to the core stage and serves as a separation system.

It was designed in a cone shape because it connects the 27.5-foot diameter core stage to the 16.5-foot diameter ICPS.

Core stage

SLS’s 212-foot-tall core stage serves the vital purpose of carrying the massive amounts of fuel required to power lift-off.

It holds 733,000 gallons of propellant to power SLS’s four RS-25 engines. It features a liquid oxygen and a liquid hydrogen propellant tank. These will feed the engines approximately 1,500 gallons of propellant per second for eight minutes after launch — the time it will take SLS to reach orbit.

Solid rocket boosters

Each of SLS’s two solid rocket boosters is the height of a 17-story building. Each generates 3.6 million pounds of thrust, providing 75 percent of the required power during the first two minutes of launch. After those first two minutes, their job is done.

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