The Rocket Science of Welding
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2010, and the cancellation of the Constellation Program in 2011, NASA was looking to create their most powerful rocket yet, a single launch vehicle usable for both crew and with about 20% more thrust than Saturn V.
Dubbed the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA has hopes to compete their new ambitious project for its first launch in 2018. However, to build a big rocket ship, you need big tools. Enter the Vehicle Assembly Centre (VAC), a huge welding tool that will help construct the core stage of the Space Launch System.
Though originally unveiled in September of 2014, the VAC has spent the last year in its final stages of construction and was handed over from the construction contractor ESAB to Boeing at the end of the year. Coming in at 170-foot-tall and 78-foot-wide, the giant structure completes a world-class welding toolkit. The VAC will be where domes, rings and barrels will be joined together to complete the tanks or dry structure assemblies. The tool also will perform nondestructive evaluation on the completed welds.