September 11, 2013
Boeing has selected ESAB Welding & Cutting Products, Florence, S.C., as a partner in the manufacturing of fuel tank structures for NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).
The SLS will be the largest American rocket ever built, measuring 200 ft. taller than the entire space shuttle rocket assembly. The SLS will measure 384 ft. long, weighing 6.5 million lbs.
The construction of an assembly of this magnitude requires entirely new ways to fabricate, assemble, and weld the main fuel tank structures. Engineers and experts from ESAB have worked with Boeing and NASA for more than a year to develop the new vertical assembly center (VAC), a giant orbital welding system that can support the huge rocket fuel tank while circumferentially welding its sections with the friction stir process.
The VAC is being designed, engineered, and built at the ESAB facility in Laxa, Sweden, and is supported by ESAB’s North American Automation Division. The vertical tower assembly is being built in the U.S. The expandable SLS rocket is slated for launch in 2017.