Boeing: Space Launch System


Space Launch System

NASA’s Space Launch System is the backbone for a permanent human presence in deep space, for multiple missions to the moon and eventually to Mars and beyond.

Building the Future of Human Spaceflight Beyond Earth

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) provides a critical heavy-lift capability built to rigorous human-rated safety standards to carry people and cargo back to the moon – this time to stay – and on to Mars.

SLS will launch larger payloads farther in our solar system, faster than ever before possible. It will be the most powerful rocket ever built, enabling diverse exploration, science and security missions. SLS is also the world’s only super heavy rocket capable of safely transporting astronauts to deep space with major payloads like landers, habitats and Gateway elements.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the design, development, test and production of the launch vehicle core stage, as well as development of the flight avionics suite.

Core Stage 101


The first test flight, Artemis I, will carry an uncrewed Orion space capsule to the moon to test the performance of the integrated system. SLS also will carry 13 small satellites, each about the size of a shoebox, that will be deployed in deep space.

Additional missions are planned with this configuration as the even more powerful Block 1B version of the rocket is designed and built. This follow-on, evolved two-stage configuration will provide a lift capability of more than 105 metric tons, using the Boeing-built Exploration Upper Stage. Boeing has delivered flight hardware for the first Artemis mission and is producing flight hardware for both the second and third missions.

Download the SLS Artemis I infographic


Feature Stories

Space Launch System gets green light for green run

Boeing and NASA test team members send shock waves through the 212-foot SLS core stage to confirm engineering models and pave the way for hot-fire testing later this year.

Artemis I Core Stage Prepped for Dress Rehearsal

NASA and Boeing prepare for a giant leap toward returning humans to the moon and beyond. NASA will use flight hardware for its initial test of the SLS core stage.

First NASA Space Launch System Core Stage Rolls Out

Boeing completes and delivers first Space Launch System core stage, the next step toward NASA’s Artemis I mission to lunar orbit.

Engines Installed on Space Launch System Artemis I Rocket

November 12, 2019 in Space

Boeing team begins integrated testing of core stage structure.

Boeing Begins Engine Install on SLS Core Stage

Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne technicians are installing the four powerful RS-25 engines modified for the Space Launch System at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, while ramping up to support the full core stage hot fire testing at Stennis Space Center next year.

Fresh ideas from the factory floor

Innovation is built into the Space Launch System from the ground up, as technicians and engineers work together to improve the rocket by incorporating ideas from the shop floor into future design and build plans, making each rocket core stage come together faster, and more efficiently.

Space Launch System Core Stage Structure Complete

Boeing teams in New Orleans connected the first Space Launch System (SLS) engine section to the rest of the rocket’s core stage.

SLS Engine Section Complete; Prepares for Join

September 10, 2019 in Space

Production of the first Space Launch System core stage approaches final join as teams prep the engine section using new tooling and a new maneuver.

Testing the Limits

Space Launch System liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks undergo testing at Marshall Space Flight Center to ensure the rocket can withstand launch and ascent.

More than a Rocket

As Boeing prepares for final element join on the first Space Launch System core stage, the second core stage of the advanced launch system is underway, and the design of a powerful Exploration Upper Stage is taking shape.

Full Throttle for Rocket Production

The second of three major joins that make up the Space Launch System core stage is underway in New Orleans, taking America a giant leap closer to launching NASA’s Artemis missions.

Stacking NASA’s Giant Rocket

Boeing employees at NASA’s Michoud facility complete a forward join on the SLS rocket core stage.

Rocket testing lifts off at NASA Marshall

The liquid hydrogen tank for Space Launch System is lifted in place in preparation for testing.

Committed to the Core

Testing, installation and integration of the Space Launch System core stage is underway.

Monumental Journey

Space Launch System employees move closer to completing core stage of world’s most powerful rocket.

Far Out

Boeing’s next big adventures into deep space ride with new super rocket.

The Path to Mars: Deep Space Mission

December 4, 2014 in Innovation, Space

NASA is setting its eyes on the exploration of Mars, an over two year-long journey that will make history. Today’s children will be the first explorers of our neighboring planet with help from Boeing technology to discover ground humans humans have yet to see.

The Rocket Makers

November 19, 2014 in Space

With cutting-edge technology, Boeing employees once again are helping build a mighty rocket.

38 Stories of Power

November 13, 2014 in Innovation, Space

With cutting-edge technology, Boeing employees once again are helping build a mighty rocket.

Aerospace’s largest tool unveiled

September 22, 2014 in Space

Take a ride on the new Space Launch System built by Boeing and ignite your human spirit.

Tanks for a great idea

March 18, 2014 in Space, Technology

Boeing has designed and built two composite liquid-hydrogen fuel tanks for heavy-lift launch vehicles that will propel future air and space missions.

Building the Biggest Rocket with the Biggest Tools

Boeing has designed and built two composite liquid-hydrogen fuel tanks for heavy-lift launch vehicles that will propel future air and space missions.

Space Launch System Gallery

Space Launch System Customer

NASA is Boeing’s customer for the Space Launch System, the largest rocket ever built, which will take humans and crew well beyond low-Earth orbit and into deep space.

The Boeing SLS Program is managed out of the company’s Space and Launch division in Huntsville, Ala., and employs Boeing’s workforce in Huntsville, at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and at other Boeing sites and with suppliers across the country. The Boeing Exploration Launch Systems office supports NASA on strategy and policy for Space Exploration programs procured by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

Technical Specifications

Stage Core Stage Block 1 Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage Block 1B Exploration Upper Stage
Length 212 ft (64.6 m) 38.0 ft (11.58 m) 57.6 ft (11.5 m)
Diameter 27.6 ft (8.4 m) 16.4 ft (5.0 m) 27.6 ft (8.4 m)
Propellant Weight 2,175,423 lbs 63,206 lbs 278,000 lbs
Empty Weight 188,000 lbs 7,700 lbs 33,156 lbs
Material Aluminum 2219 Aluminum Aluminum
Engines 4 RS-25 1 RL 10-C1 4 RL-10
Thrust per Engine 512,000 lbf 24,854 lbf 24,340 lbf
Total Thrust at Max Power 2.2 million lbf (1.09%) 24,854 lbf (1.00%) 97,360 lbf (1.00%)
Fuel Liquid Hydrogen Liquid Hydrogen Liquid Hydrogen
Oxidizer Liquid Oxygen Liquid Oxygen Liquid Oxygen

Space Launch System Quick Facts

  • Designed to be flexible and evolvable for crew or cargo missions
  • Safe, affordable and sustainable to advance America’s exploration of space
  • Three capabilities: 95 metric tons, 105 metric tons and 130 metric tons of payload capacity to low Earth orbit
  • The 130 metric tons of capacity would take 22 fully grown elephants into orbit
  • The 95 and 105 metric ton configurations have 8.8 million pounds of thrust, equal to the horsepower produced in 160,000 Corvette engines, or 13,400 locomotive engines
  • The 130 metric ton configuration has 11.9 million pounds of thrust, equal to the horsepower produced in 208,000 Corvette engines, or 17,400 locomotive engines
  • Each solid rocket booster burns 5 tons of propellant per second
  • The power generated from four RS-25 engines on the SLS equals the output of 12 Hoover Dams

Human Landing System

Boeing in November 2019 submitted a proposal to NASA for an integrated Human Landing System (HLS) designed to safely take astronauts to the surface of the moon and return them to lunar orbit as part of the Artemis space exploration program.

The company’s proposal calls for delivering the lander’s Ascent Element and Descent Element to lunar orbit in one launch of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, to ensure the lander can be tailored for maximum capability and crew safety. As part of Boeing’s “Fewest Steps to the Moon” approach, the HLS also can carry itself from lunar orbit to the surface without an additional transfer stage.

The lander’s flexible design allows it to dock with the Gateway lunar orbiter or directly with NASA’s Orion, both on time to meet NASA’s goal of a 2024 human mission to the lunar surface. The HLS and Gateway combination is essential to sustained lunar exploration and for future missions to Mars.

Human Landing System launching on Space Launch System

Human Landing System docked to Gateway

Human Landing System lifting off from the moon

Watch U.S. Fly

Want to learn more about SLS and its role in Boeing’s space exploration business? Visit Watch U.S. Fly for more information.



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