NASA Prepares for Next Series of RS-25 Engine Tests for SLS Rocket

NASA installed a developmental RS-25 engine into the test stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This engine will be used in an upcoming test series to gather data and evaluate new components for development and production of new RS-25 engines for future Artemis missions. The new RS-25s, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, will use advanced manufacturing methods and provide increased thrust levels, while also lowering manufacturing costs.

Engineers Move Forward with SLS Green Run Testing, Valve Repair Complete

Over the weekend, engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, successfully repaired a valve inside the core stage of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The team designed an innovative tool to remove and replace the valve’s faulty clutch while the core stage remained in the B-2 test stand, and without removing the entire valve. Subsequent testing of the repaired valve confirmed that the system is operating as intended.

This week, the team is preparing for the seventh Green Run test, called the wet dress rehearsal, when the stage will be loaded with cryogenic, or super-cold, propellant for the first time. NASA is now targeting the week of Dec. 7 for the wet dress rehearsal and the week of Dec. 21 for the hot fire test. During the hot fire test, all four engines will fire to simulate the stage’s operation during launch. The Green Run test series is a comprehensive test of the rocket’s core stage before it launches Artemis missions to the Moon. NASA remains on track to launch Artemis I by November 2021.

Hurricane Zeta Impacts, SLS Green Run Testing Status Update

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.

NASA Insignia and American Flag Applied to Orion for Artemis I

Technicians with the lead contractor for Orion, Lockheed Martin, adhered the NASA insignia, known as the “meatball,”  and an American Flag to the back shell of the spacecraft’s crew module for Artemis I. Final assemblies are well underway for Orion as teams progress toward next year’s launch. The spacecraft will soon be fueled and fitted with the launch abort system and other ground system elements in preparation to take its place atop the powerful Space Launch System rocket.

Read more about the other markings on Artemis I

SLS Green Run Testing Status Update

NASA is progressing through the Green Run test series for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and has completed six of the eight tests. The team is preparing to stand down for another tropical weather system that is heading to the area. The pause in work comes ahead of the most complex tests: wet dress rehearsal, when propellant will be loaded for the first time, and hot fire, when all four engines will be fired and every system within the stage will operate. During the pause, engineers will continue to assess data from recent tests to ensure the team is ready to proceed to the next phase of testing. Green Run testing is a complex series of tests to methodically and thoroughly check all the rocket’s core stage systems together for the first time to ensure the stage is ready for flight. Check back at this blog for an update on adjusted dates for the Green Run wet dress rehearsal and hot fire tests, after the storm has passed.

Mobile Launcher Arrives at Launch Pad 39B for Tests, Preps for Artemis I

The Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs teams rolled the mobile launcher, atop crawler-transporter 2, out of the Vehicle Assembly Building for its slow trek to Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 20.

The roll began just after midnight, and the mobile launcher arrived at the top of the pad Tuesday morning. This trek to the pad will help prepare the launch team for the actual wet dress rehearsal and launch of SLS and Orion on Artemis I next year. The wet dress rehearsal is when SLS and Orion will be rolled out to the pad atop the mobile launcher to practice fueling operations a couple months before launch. The last time the mobile launcher was rolled to the pad was in December 2019.

During its two-week stay at the pad, engineers will perform several tasks, including a timing test to validate the launch team’s countdown timeline, and a thorough, top-to-bottom wash down of the mobile launcher to remove any debris remaining from construction and installation of the umbilical arms.

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Orion Solar Array Wing Installation Complete for Artemis I

Artemis I Orion Solar Wing Installation Complete

Teams from NASA, Lockheed Martin, the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus Defence, and Airbus Netherlands have completed the meticulous installation of Orion’s four solar array wings. The arrays will supply energy to the service module that will power and propel the spacecraft during NASA’s Artemis I mission. They were fitted onto the European Service Module (ESM) inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Activities on the spacecraft continue to move forward — the next set of final installations include the spacecraft adapter jettison fairings, which enclose the service module, and forward bay cover, protecting the upper part of Orion including its parachutes throughout its mission. Once complete, the spacecraft will begin its journey through Kennedy to be integrated with its launch abort system and ultimately, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for launch from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B.

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Artemis I Networks for Communication and Navigation

Artemis I will demonstrate NASA’s networks’ comprehensive services for journeys to lunar orbit. The mission requires all three of NASA’s major networks to work in tandem, providing different communications and tracking service levels as Orion leaves Earth, orbits the Moon, and returns safely home.

Communications services allow flight controllers in mission control centers to send commands to the spacecraft and receive data from Orion and SLS systems. Tracking, or navigation, services enable the flight controllers to see where the spacecraft are along their trajectory through space.

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SLS Core Stage Passes Simulated Countdown Test

Engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, completed a simulated launch countdown sequence on Oct. 5 for the sixth test of the eight-part core stage Green Run test series for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The rocket’s core stage has three flight computers and avionics systems to help launch and guide NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon. During the simulated countdown, NASA engineers and technicians, along with prime contractors Boeing, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, monitored the stage to validate the timeline and sequence of events leading up to the test, which is similar to the countdown for the Artemis I launch.

The countdown sequence for an actual Artemis launch begins roughly two days prior to liftoff. In addition to all the procedures leading up to the ignition of the four RS-25 engines, the SLS core stage requires about six hours to fully load fuel into the two liquid propellant tanks. The simulated countdown sequence test at Stennis began at the 48-hour mark as if the stage was first powered up before liftoff. Engineers then skipped ahead in the sequence to monitor the stage and procedures of the stage 10 minutes before the hot fire. The simulated countdown sequence is one of the final tests of the SLS Green Run campaign. The series of tests is designed to gradually bring the rocket stage and all its systems to life for the first time.

Artemis I Rocket and Spacecraft Receive “Worm” Welcome

NASA worm and ESA logo on Orion spacecraft

NASA is headed back to the Moon as part of the Artemis program – and the agency’s “worm” logo will be along for the ride on the first integrated mission of the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft. Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida have applied the historic logo in bright red on visible parts of the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft.

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