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NASA's new monstrous mobile launcher is getting ready to support the next phase of Artemis

The base structure of mobile launcher 2 being transferred using NASAs crawler

NASA has set the foundation for the operation of the SLS Block 1B, the larger and more powerful rocket variant that aims to send the agency’s first astronauts toward the Moon since the Apollo era. This foundation is called “mobile launcher 2” and is part of NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program (EGS).

This week, the base of the steel platform that weights a massive 2.6 million pounds and will be 355-foot-tall once finished, was relocated within NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to its permanent mount mechanisms using a giant transporter known as the crawler:

“Four self-propelled modular transporters were driven underneath the sides of the steel assembly and then lowered the base onto eight surrounding jacks. Once secured, teams removed the transporters and used jacks to raise the base 18 feet to allow for crawler access underneath the structure. The crawler was then positioned under the new base skeleton, raised the structure a few inches higher, and repositioned it about 200 feet to the six permanent pedestals, called mount mechanisms, completing the ‘jack and set’ operation.”

The platform is currently located in the proximity of NASA’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building where – once completed – it will be used during assembly, processing, and launch of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and Orion spacecraft.

The new mobile launch platform 2 with NASAs iconic Vehicle Assembly Building in the background

The agency’s EGS engineers are working on the construction with the primary contractor, Bechtel National. The relocation will be followed by installing the critical piping and electrical equipment inside the base. The mobile launcher will remain at the park site throughout the build and commissioning phases of the project, before being relocated to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The bigger and more powerful SLS Block 1B rocket features an enhanced upper stage, allowing the agency to send astronauts and heavier cargo into lunar orbit. The new mobile platform will be used for the first time as part of the Artemis IV mission which hopes to safely land NASA’s first astronauts on the Moon since 1972.

The mission is currently on track for 2028. However, that is given the Artemis II (targeting September 2025) and Artemis III (September 2026) missions will launch on time and successfully.

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