Tech by VICE

Watch a Damn Big Rocket Engine Get Loaded Onto a Damn Big Barge

Check out the inside of the barge for yourself in VR.

by Becky Ferreira
May 16 2017, 6:16pm

The Pegasus barge parked in Huntsville. Image: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

It's not every day that a colossal rocket engine designed to blast humans to Mars is loaded onto a specialized barge for a cruise along the Gulf Coast. But on April 28, that's exactly what went down at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

Video: NASA Marshall Center/YouTube

Aerial drone footage, released on Tuesday, captures the delicate transfer of a test version of the core stage engine section for the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's "Mars shot" megarocket in development, to the trusty Pegasus barge, which has been ferrying the agency's random rocket accessories around since 1999.

At over 200 feet tall and 27.6 feet wide, the engine is an aeronautic beast that will one day contain a clutch of four smaller RS-25 engines. But first, the core engine needs to go through the ringer of stress tests that will ensure it is up to the challenge of launching NASA's Orion crewed spacecraft to distant targets like the Moon, Mars, or asteroids.

Read More: Watch as NASA Tests the Rocket Motor that Could Take Us to Mars

That's why Michoud staff loaded it up onto a dolly for transport to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, which is equipped to "push, pull, twist and bend the test article with millions of pounds of force," according to the video summary.

The Pegasus traveled 1,240 miles over the past few weeks and finally arrived at its destination on Tuesday to a welcome party of NASA officials and press. You can take a look inside the enormous boat, which had to be modified to accommodate the SLS core stage, in this new VR video that NASA also dropped today.

Video: NASA Marshall Center/YouTube

When combined with the second stage and SLS's solid rocket boosters, strapped to each side of this core component, this will be the most powerful rocket ever built.

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