NASA Builds Welding Test Article for SLS Exploration Upper Stage

Hydrogen tank barrel that NASA will test as a weld confidence article. (Image: NASA)

NASA completed manufacturing of a hydrogen tank barrel that will be tested as a weld confidence article for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s Exploration Upper Stage (EUS). Weld confidence articles help establish welding procedures and interfaces between the tooling and hardware and ensure the structural integrity of the welds. Starting with the Artemis IV mission, the EUS will provide the power to send astronauts in NASA’s Orion spacecraft and heavy cargo on a precise trajectory to the Moon.

After NASA and lead contractor Boeing completed manufacturing of the test tank barrel at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, technicians moved it from the Vertical Weld Center where it was built to the Vertical Assembly Center for further processing. Engineers will cut the barrel into small sections for mechanical testing and analysis that will help verify the parameters that will be used to build the rocket stage.

For NASA’s first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket will use an interim cryogenic propulsion stage with one RL10 engine to send Orion to the Moon. The EUS will be used on the rocket’s Block IB evolved configuration for flights beyond Artemis III.

The upper stage has larger propellant tanks and four RL10 engines. The evolution of the rocket to SLS Block 1B configuration with EUS enables SLS to launch 40% more cargo to the Moon along with the crew. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and heavy cargos to the Moon in a single mission. The SLS rocket, NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Gateway, and commercial human landing systems are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration.

Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone on the way to Mars.