NASA has conducted an initial assessment of the impact from Hurricane Zeta at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. While storm appraisals are continuing, teams have determined that Stennis did sustain some damage on the center, but the B-2 test stand and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage for Artemis I, currently in the stand, were not damaged. Michoud experienced damage to the outside and roof of buildings, but there is no damage to the SLS rocket or Orion spacecraft hardware being manufactured at the facility.
Widespread power outages in the area have made assessments difficult at both locations, and some buildings are still without power. While no personal injuries have been reported by NASA employees, many team members are also still without power, have experienced damage to personal property, and have not been able to return to work. Despite stopping work for the pandemic, as well as six Gulf Coast storms, and while working under pandemic-imposed restrictions, NASA and contractors Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne continue to make progress on Green Run testing of the SLS core stage at Stennis.
NASA has completed six of the eight core stage Green Run tests and is in the final stage of testing, which will operate the entire stage and its propulsion systems together for the first time. During the pause of on-site work due to the storm, engineers were able to take a closer look at data from recent testing. The team identified one of eight valves, which supply liquid hydrogen to the RS-25 engines, had inconsistent performance during recent tests. The valve is called a prevalve and is part of the core stage main propulsion system. NASA conducts ground testing on the core stage to demonstrate it is ready for flight, and the expert team of problem solvers is prepared to resolve any issues. Engineers have inspected the valve, understand the reason it is not working properly, and plan to repair the valve while the core stage remains in the B-2 test stand. Following a successful repair, the team plans to conduct the Green Run wet dress rehearsal and hot fire testing before the end of the year.
NASA is testing the new core stage on the ground to identify issues before flight, as the agency has done with every new rocket stage ever flown. The Green Run test series is a comprehensive test of the rocket’s core stage before it launches Artemis missions to the Moon. Check back at this blog for an update on completion of the repair and an updated schedule for the final Green Run tests.