With the new Space Launch System, NASA is taking a step backwards (or maybe, sideways, if we're being charitable) in rocket construction. The SLS is a bit more like the Saturn V in how it comes together: a bunch of little rocket bits all show up at the Vehicle Assembly Building, where they're stacked on top of one another until its built up a 384-foot tall tower of mostly controlled explosives. This is in contrast to the space shuttle, which would show up in four sizable chunks (orbiter, external tank, and two solid rocket boosters) that would simply get attached to each other and rolled out to the launch pad.
The video below showing the SLS assembly process is part of a NASA development program aimed at making sure all of the necessary infrastructure required to support SLS launch and construction gets built at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They've got some time, but not a lot of time: with the first SLS launch scheduled to head around the Moon in 2017, we only have a few years to wait before NASA lights the first one of these massive rockets off.
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