NASA's new moon rocket: how it works

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The unmanned mission would orbit the moon a few times, testing the system and paving the way for a manned mission to the moon in 2023.

SLS is short for Space Launch System and, because the moon is a thousand times farther away from Earth than the International Space Station, it needs to be much, much bigger than other rockets.

1. Show icon view of SLS taking off, Orion stage detaches and orbits moon twice
2. SLS next to Statue of Liberty, same height, show SLS internal tanks with different liquids
3. External view of engine, then internal diagram showing mixing of fuel types, ignition
4. SLS next to space shuttle, same engines, inset box shows H2O molecules in core's engines' exhaust
5. Focus on SRB boosters in flight, X-ray vision, burning solid fuel from core outward
6. SRB's fire side thrusters, fall away, later core rockets stop, Orion module detaches and fires own rocket

VOICEOVER (in English):
Reuters reports that NASA plans to launch its massive new SLS rocket for an unmanned test mission around the moon later this year.

The first version of the SLS will tower 23 storeys above the launch pad.

Its core stage houses two large storage tanks, one for liquid hydrogen, and another for the liquid oxygen that makes the hydrogen burn.

These liquids are fed into the engine chambers and ignited with a spark, where the chemical reaction produces vast amounts of energy and steam.

The core stage has four RS-25 engines, the same ones that powered the space shuttle.

The steam exits the engine nozzles at high speed, generating enough thrust to push the giant into space.

Two solid rocket boosters give the rocket extra power to escape gravity's clutches. These twin boosters stand more than 17 storeys tall and burn six tonnes of solid propellant each second.

They provide 75 percent of total thrust during the first two minutes of flight.

Once in orbit, the crew capsule will detach from the SLS and use its space engine to get all the way to the moon.

SOURCES: BBC, Yahoo News