Since replacing an engine controller on RS-25 engine number four that is on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage, NASA, and lead engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, have performed a series of tests to ensure the engines and controllers are ready to support the Artemis I mission. All four engine controllers performed as expected during power up, as part of the Artemis I Core Stage engineering tests.
Aerojet Rocketdyne and its manufacturer of the engine flight controller, conducted numerous tests on the faulty engine four controller and determined the cause to be a faulty memory chip. The device is used only during the controller start-up sequence and has no impact on controller operations beyond that point. There is no indication of faulty memory chips on the other three engines, and therefore no related constraints to the wet dress rehearsal or launch.
Kennedy teams are completing remaining SLS pre-flight diagnostic tests and hardware closeouts, including testing the flight termination system on the SLS and installing instrumentation on the twin solid rocket boosters, in advance of rolling the rocket and spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B for the first time next month for a final test before launch. This final test, known as the wet dress rehearsal, will run the launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks and conduct a full launch countdown.
During the test at the launch pad, engineers will be on duty in the Launch Control Center and in other stations where they will work during the Artemis I launch. They will capture as much data as possible on the performance of all the systems that are part of SLS and the Orion spacecraft as well as the Kennedy ground systems. NASA will set a target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test.
Work continues inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Artemis I wet dress rehearsal test, currently targeted for next month. Teams have been installing the flight termination system on the rocket and working on the first of a two-part test of the system. For safety, all rockets are required to have a flight termination system that the Space Launch Delta 45 can use to terminate the flight if necessary. Once the rocket and spacecraft systems are verified during wet dress rehearsal testing, the 322-foot-tall rocket will roll back into the VAB for final inspections and checkouts, including the second part of the flight termination system test, ahead of returning to the pad for launch.
In addition to work on the flight termination system, the team is installing instrumentation on the twin solid rocket boosters and core stage, as well as instrumentation needed for the wet dress rehearsal rollout. Artemis I is a flight test, and engineers will capture as much data as possible on the performance of all the systems that are part of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft as well as the Kennedy ground systems that support the vehicle during rollout, wet dress rehearsal, and launch. Not only will this be the first integrated flight for SLS and Orion, but it will be the first use of many new ground systems. Thousands of sensors and special instruments will monitor the rocket and spacecraft as they make the four-mile journey to Launch Complex 39B next month. The team is also working to inspect and install thermal blankets on the core stage engine section.
Up next, the team plans to power up the Orion spacecraft as part of testing the flight termination system and then close the spacecraft’s hatch after powering it down.
NASA has updated the schedule to move the combined Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for testing to no earlier than March 2022.
NASA has added additional time to complete closeout activities inside the VAB prior to rolling the integrated rocket and spacecraft out for the first time. While the teams are not working any major issues, engineers continue work associated with final closeout tasks and flight termination system testing ahead of the wet dress rehearsal.
Teams are taking operations a step at a time to ensure the integrated system is ready to safely launch the Artemis I mission. NASA is reviewing launch opportunities in April and May.