A Tour of NASA's Moon Rocket Factory
15:12

A Tour of NASA's Moon Rocket Factory

Space
Speaker 1: It's so impressive to be here. And I really cannot give you a sense of just how massive this thing is. Speaker 2: You see pictures, you see scale drawing, but until you see it assembled and it's sitting on the factory floor, it's like, wow, that's a big rocket. Speaker 3: The average person has no idea how awesome this place is. The things we do here [00:00:30] are remarkable. Speaker 1: This is Artis NASA's new mega rocket. That will take humans back to the moon for the first time in 50 years, and take us further into space than we've ever been for this journey. NASA needs its most powerful and advanced spacecraft ever a super heavy lift rocket known as the space launch system and an advanced crew vehicle called ion together. They'll lift huge payloads and take humans [00:01:00] on long term missions into deep space. This spacecraft will travel 1000 times farther than the international space station on its very first flight. It's the foundation for building a base on the moon. And one day it's set to launch to Mars. It's an epic build on a massive scale and it's being built here at America's rocket factory, [00:01:30] a short drive from the center of new Orleans on the edge of the Gulf coast is the Mishu assembly facility since 1961. This building has been a cornerstone of NASA manufacturing and it's the heart of the Artis build for the past 60 years, NASA has been building the future of space exploration first to the moon with the Apollo program. And then with 135 shuttle missions, you can see those shuttle mission patches behind me. [00:02:00] Now they're doing it all again with the Artemis program, going back to the moon and further into deep space than ever before. Speaker 2: Everything we've built for NASA has been a crude vehicle. Starting with the Saturn program. Obviously put men on the moon, the shuttle program. We built the external tanks here, which obviously put humans in orbit and the shuttle program built the international space station. And then today Artis will put humans back on the moon and on [00:02:30] Mars Speaker 1: Right now Nasar is focused on the first three AIST flights. Aus one is set to launch in 2022. This first flight will orbit around the moon without astronauts. It's a sort of test flight designed to collect data on the capabilities of the space launch system, the Orion spacecraft, and all the exploration ground systems that support flight on item two NASA will send crew up for the first time for a fly by of [00:03:00] the far side of the moon. It's the first time humans will have been that far into space since the Apollo program ended, that flight is set to launch no earlier than 2024 by AIST three, a third rocket will take humanity back for a moon landing no sooner than 2025 sending the first woman and the first person of color to touch down on the moon, south pole and press their footprints into the lunar surface at Mishu NASA contractor, Boeing is making the core stage of the space [00:03:30] launch system or SLS. It's also where Lockheed Martin is building the Orion pressure vessel. The main structure that holds the pressurized atmosphere for the astronauts to survive in space. A build of this scale takes up a lot of room getting around this building. It's quicker to ride a bike than to actually walk. Speaker 2: And what you need is large open spaces. I mean the rocket, the core stage [00:04:00] is 212 feet long. So you gotta have wide open aisles. You gotta have spaces with cranes to be able to hit lift the heavy rocket, the floor loading, which people don't realize in south Louisiana. There's no bedrock. So the floor in here has a reinforced to support the way the rocket. Speaker 1: So what we're looking at right here is a scale model of the Mishu assembly facility. It might not look very big, but this is equivalent to 2 million [00:04:30] square feet of factory space. That's 31 football fields, all dedicated to building rockets. It's kind of impressive to see it from this level. Feel kind of powerful Speaker 1: To understand the AIST build it's worth doing a little bit of rocket. 1 0 1, the bulk of Aus is made up of the massive SLS core stage that contains the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks. They power the four RS 25 engines on the bottom of the rocket on either side [00:05:00] of the core stage are the solid rocket boosters. These are actually heritage parts from the shuttle program though. They've been upgraded with new avionics and capacity. They'll provide about 75% of the lift for the rocket. The SLS launches the rocket into space, but it's jettisoned early in the flight. That's when the rest of the spacecraft, what you can see in white takes over that starts with the interim cryogenic propulsion stage or ICPs, which guides the spacecraft on [00:05:30] its path to the moon. After launch above that is the Orion crew vehicle, which carries the crew and support systems. Speaker 1: Then at the very top is the launch aboard system, which is there to propel the astronauts to safety. If something goes wrong during a launch, the whole of itus, one is 322 feet tall, taller than the statue of Liberty. And while it's a touch shorter than the satin five from the Apollo era, it can lift 1.3 million pounds more payload into [00:06:00] space. The rocket design for the first three Artemis missions is known as block one, and it can be configured for crew or cargo, but NASA is already looking towards the future. The next generation rocket will have a much more powerful exploration, upper stage with four engines and four times the thrust that next gen rocket will help NASA send crew and cargo on longer missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. [00:06:30] Since the early seventies, NASA has only sent humans to low earth orbit, a couple of hundred miles above earth. Now it needs to protect astronauts on longer missions into deeper space. For that. NASA has partnered with Lockheed Martin to build a new kind of space craft Orion with Orion. The stakes are critical Speaker 3: When you build a spacecraft, you can't make mistakes. You're going to an environment that no one [00:07:00] and nothing ever sees. It's a harsh environment, but that's why they're astronauts. And we aren't. Speaker 1: The Orion crew vehicle is made up of a number of sections at the base is the European service module built by the good folks at the European space agency. This will guide Orion through space and around the moon. Long after the SLS is outta the picture, it also contains enough food and water for a three week mission above the service module is the crew module. That's the pressurized capsule that Lockheed is building. [00:07:30] It's a third larger than the Apollo command module. And its computing systems are 4,000 times faster. It has four crew seats, a compact exercise machine and a toilet with its own door. This capsule doesn't just have to keep the astronauts alive in space. It's gotta protect them when they come back to earth too. During reentry Orion will travel at almost 25,000 miles an hour. So it's going to get hot Speaker 3: For the low earth orbit vehicles [00:08:00] when they return. They gotta withstand about 3000 degrees during reentry. The Orion capsule has to withstand about 5,000 degrees. And so the heat shield and the thermal protection systems on the AF end of the vehicle are significantly different. Speaker 1: While the Orion bill doesn't take up too much space at Mishu. The SLS is a different story. Speaker 1: I think of a regular car production line, but way bigger, [00:08:30] because in this case we are building rockets and yes, they're actually building them right now. That's all the bang crashing you can hear. So we take individual panels, they get welded together into larger sections. And then those sections form up the parts of the rocket. All that assembly takes place along these stations. And then the final assembly is way down. The other end of the building. The SLS is made up of the massive liquid hydrogen tank at the bottom and the liquid oxygen tank on top. These tanks need to withstand huge pressures. [00:09:00] The launch of this rocket is essentially a controlled explosion after all, but they also need to be as light as possible. Speaker 4: So if you imagine a Coke can expanded to the size of a liquid hydrogen tank, uh, your barrel wall thickness is, uh, pretty close to the same ratio and the engineering that's been there to be able to, um, withstand the pressure and the, um, hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel in there is pretty amazing. Speaker 1: Alright, [00:09:30] so right now I am seven stories up in the air and behind me is the vertical assembly center. Now this is where all those components we saw before those rings those cylindrical barrels. They all get fed into this tool and get welded together to become the massive fuel tanks. They get fed into the bottom. They inch up kind of like an upside down PEs dispenser. What comes out is a fuel tank that becomes the body of the SLS. After the rocket has wound its way through the me shoot production line. It ends up [00:10:00] here the final assembly area. And this is where we find the core stage of AIS. Two, about to finally come together. Speaker 5: The sheer size of the vehicle that we're building here is astounding, the design and the manufacturing talent that it takes to build a vehicle this size for all the engineering folks out there in the world, uh, should shock an awe. Speaker 1: So where two from here? Well, these two massive sections are gonna get joined together. Then they add the engine section at the very end with four RS, 25 engines. Then this [00:10:30] whole core stage gets put on a barge, shipped around the Florida panhandle to the Kennedy space center. The core stage for Aus one has already made that journey after leaving me, shoot, it went for engine testing at the Stenner space center across the border in Mississippi. From there, it traveled on a six day barge trip up to Florida. Thankfully, I could just jump on a plane. So right [00:11:00] now I am 16 floors up in the vehicle assembly building at NASA's Kennedy space center. And I am here to see theist rocket that will be going to the moon. It's so impressive to be here. And I really cannot give you a sense of just how massive this thing is. It's so impressive assembly building the vehicle assembly building was originally built for the satin five rocket in the Apollo days. Now it's where AIST one is [00:11:30] going through its final checks before launch, but we've still got to get to launch day and like any true space program. There have been plenty of delays. Speaker 1: Aus has been in the works for more than a decade. It was originally slated to launch in 2016. Now NASA hopes to launch Aus one this year after finally wrapping up pre-flight testing as for boots on the moon, 2025 might be [00:12:00] ambitious. In fact, NASA's own inspector general puts that date at 2026 at the earliest. And then there's the cost. The inspector general says the AIST program will cost NASA 93 billion by 2025. And each AIST flight will cost 4.1 billion. What's more. Each SLS. Rocket will only fly once and there are no prototypes being launched on shorter test flights like we've seen with SpaceX's Starship, [00:12:30] this rocket, this is it. Speaker 4: The vehicle we built here, core stage one and delivered from Michu is the same vehicle that went Toten for testing. And that test vehicle was then delivered to Kennedy. And that's gonna be the, uh, core stage. That's gonna be part of Artis, one launch, which is gonna be a man rated vehicle. So you had your prototype, uh, test vehicle and launch vehicle all in one. Speaker 1: But when companies like SpaceX are launching and landing the same rockets to be reused, why build a rocket that can [00:13:00] only be used once? According to NASA, building reusable rockets comes at a cost, especially when it comes to launching huge payloads to start building infrastructure in space. Speaker 2: Our mission is to get as much mass to the moon as we can on a single launch. When you have reusability, there's, there's extra weight penalties for that, you gotta have the gear to landed. You gotta have extra fuel that it all that takes away mass, and you can put it to the moon. Speaker 1: NASA is hoping to get a return on its investment. [00:13:30] Eventually the space agency wants to commercialize Artemis and sell it to anybody that needs heavy launch capability. That'll leave NASA to focus on bigger missions to places like Mars. And that's the long term goal. NASA wants Artis to get us into deep space for the long haul shuttling astronauts to the moon, setting up a lunar base and going to Mars. And beyond that dream is being built on the back of this rocket. It's a vision for a new [00:14:00] generation Artis, the sister of Apollo, carrying the hopes of space exploration into a new age and soon we'll all get to see that vision launch into the sky, ready to forge the next era of discovery. Speaker 3: We don't build washing machines, we build national treasures. And so it's gonna be a feeling kind of like the first shuttle launch or the first Apollo launch. It's just, it's indescribable. [00:14:30] Um, the amount of pride that, that we feel, you know, when that occurs, Speaker 5: Sounds that people will hear for Artis one at the Cape. Um, as well as, like I said, the emotions and feelings that the astronauts are gonna experience as they're going up on the, on this vehicle, it's gonna be nothing short of awesome. Speaker 2: You're making history. You don't realize it now, but at one point when you get to be my age, you realize, man, I was there when we started it.

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