The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) moved into the Multi-Payload Processing Facility February 18, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida alongside one of its flight partners for the Artemis I mission, the Orion spacecraft. Both pieces of hardware will undergo fueling and servicing in the facility ahead of launch by teams from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and their primary contractor, Jacobs Technology. The rocket stage and Orion will remain close during their journey to space.
Built by United Launch Alliance and Boeing, the ICPS will be positioned above the core stage and will provide the power needed to give Orion the big push it needs to break out of Earth orbit on a precise trajectory toward the Moon during Artemis I.
This is the first time since the shuttle program that two pieces of flight hardware have been processed inside this facility at the same time. Once final checkouts are complete, the ICPS and Orion will part ways on the ground and be reunited in the Vehicle Assembly Building for integration onto the SLS rocket.
Artemis I will be an integrated flight test of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft ahead of the crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface and establish a sustainable presence at the Moon to prepare for human missions to Mars.
NASA’s Artemis IOrion spacecraft is being outfitted with additional artwork as technicians began installing the logo for ESA (European Space Agency). ESA provided the European-built service module, which provides power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, and will also provide water and air for astronauts on future missions.
Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions. The ESA logo joins the historic NASA “meatball” insignia on the Artemis I spacecraft adapter jettison fairing panels that protect the service module during launch.
Orion is currently stationed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Multi-Payload Processing Facility, where it will undergo fueling and servicing by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and Jacobs Technology teams in preparation for the upcoming flight test with the Space Launch System rocket under the agency’s Artemis program.
For the Green Run hot fire test on Jan. 16, NASA set out to acquire test data to support 23 detailed verification objectives. To satisfy the objectives, hot fire test data is used in combination with analysis and testing that has already been completed. These detailed verification objectives are used to certify the design of the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage.
The preliminary assessment indicates that the data acquired met the goals for a number of the 23 objectives, such as those related to activities prior to engine ignition. The initial assessment also indicates that data acquired partially met the goals for several additional of the 23 objectives related to simultaneous operations of four RS-25 engines.
NASA and its industry partners, Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne, are continuing to assess the extensive data from the test. As part of the planned near-term activities, they will complete the final assessment determining which objectives were fully met and which ones were partially met. They also are evaluating the value of acquiring additional test data and a longer run time to augment the existing analyses and data.
Currently, the SLS core stage can still be loaded with propellant and pressurized 20 more times for a total of 22 cycles. Rocket stages like the core stage are designed to be loaded with cryogenic propellant and pressurized a specific number of times. These are called cryogenic loading cycles. Before Green Run testing began, SLS had allocated nine cryogenic cycles for testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and has used two of those during the hot fire and wet dress rehearsal, with seven cryogenic cycles remaining for additional testing. For the Artemis I Iaunch, NASA is preserving 13 of the remaining 20 cryogenic loading cycles. These can be used for multiple launch attempts, a wet dress rehearsal on the launch pad, and other activities that require propellant loading and tank pressurization.
One of the critical activities that must happen before either another hot fire test or launch is drying and refurbishment of the engines. That activity is underway. NASA is continuing to inspect the core stage and its RS-25 engines on the B-2 test stand, and initial inspections indicate the hardware is in excellent condition.
Hardware inspection and data assessment will continue and will inform NASA’s decision on whether to conduct a second Green Run test or proceed with shipping the core stage to Kennedy for integration with other SLS hardware in the Vehicle Assembly Building.