The Mobile Launcher (ML) which had been built provide services to the planned Ares V launch vehicle of Project Constellation will not go to waste despite the cancellation of that programme. It will now be used to carry the heavy lift SLS (Space Launch System) to its launch pad (39B) at the Kennedy Sapce Center.
During May, NASA has awarded a contract to J.P. Donovan Construction Inc. to modify the ML, which is one of the key elements of ground support equipment, to carry the SLS rocket for its first mission in 2017. The work under the firm fixed-price contact is expected to be completed within 18 months.
The conversion work includes widening the exhaust space in the mobile launcher base to support two solid rocket boosters and four main engines for the initial versions of the SLS. To increase its utilisation, the tower upgrades also include movable umbilical fuel lines (including crygoenic systems) which allow the support of a variety of other launch vehicles in addition to SLS. The flight test of SLS in 2017 will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft into lunar orbit.