The rocket stage that will propel an astronaut crew out of Earth orbit on the first human voyage to the Moon’s South Pole has arrived at the launch site for processing prior to the Artemis III launch.
ULA's unique cargo vessel used to transport rockets, known as the R/S RocketShip, delivered the third Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS-3) to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, for Artemis III in NASA's lunar exploration program.
"ICPS-3 will help send astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon for the first lunar landing in more than 50 years," said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president Government and Commercial Programs. “ULA is proud to be taking these first steps with NASA as we embark on human launch beyond Earth orbit.”
ICPS is built by ULA under a collaborative partnership with Boeing to serve as the upper stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. As the name implies, it is the interim upper stage solution for the first three launches until the Boeing-made Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) is ready.
The ICPS is based on the five-meter-diameter version of ULA's Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) that has flown 26 times on Delta IV missions since 2004 with 100 percent mission success.
The ULA production team developed the ICPS-3 stage using the same factory tooling as the Delta IV line. Now that the final ICPS has shipped ULA is sunsetting the Delta IV capabilities as part of the factory transformation to support the Vulcan rocket.
The ICPS features a slightly larger liquid hydrogen tank as compared to the Delta IV second stage, as well as electrical and mechanical interfaces specific to attaching and supporting the Orion spacecraft, and a second hydrazine bottle for additional attitude control propellant. The ICPS-3 for Artemis III also includes an Emergency Detection System (EDS) and other hardware changes specific to human safety.
The stage feeds liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 main engine to produce 24,750 pounds (110.1 kilo-Newtons) of highly efficient thrust.
The Artemis I ICPS performed nominally in its launch on Nov. 16, 2022, helping send the uncrewed Orion on its trip around the Moon. The Artemis II ICPS is complete and is in the Delta Operation Center (DOC) at Cape Canaveral for processing for future operations to launch a crewed Orion on a lunar test flight.
The ICPS-3 stage on Artemis III will provide the trans-lunar injection (TLI) burn for the Orion spacecraft and its astronauts to set a flight path from Earth to the Moon.