Artemis I Core Stage Engineering Testing Complete

This week, engineers and technicians successfully completed an engineering test series of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as part of the integrated testing before launch.

After replacing and testing one of four RS-25 engine controllers, the team conducted several tests to ensure the massive core stage is ready to roll to the launch pad for the wet dress rehearsal ahead of the Artemis I launch. Engineers and technicians tested communication between the flight computers and other core stage systems and slightly moved the engines to practice the gimbaling they will experience during flight.

All four engine controllers were powered up and performed as expected as part of the Artemis I Core Stage engineering tests. Following the power up, engineers successfully performed diagnostic tests on each controller.

Up next, the team will conduct a second countdown sequencing test to demonstrate the ground launch software and ground launch sequencer, which checks for health and status of the vehicle while at the pad. The simulated launch countdown tests the responses from SLS and the Orion spacecraft, ensuring the sequencer can run without any issues. After the countdown test and final closeouts are complete, SLS and Orion will head to the launch pad for the first time to complete the wet dress rehearsal test.

Lift Underway to Top Mega-Moon Rocket with Orion Spacecraft

Orion lifted atop SLS rocket in the VAB
Photo Credit: Chad Siwik

Final stacking operations for NASA’s mega-Moon rocket are underway inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as the Orion spacecraft is lifted onto the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the Artemis I mission. Engineers and technicians with Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and Jacobs attached the spacecraft to one of the five overhead cranes inside the building and began lifting it a little after midnight EDT.

Next, teams will slowly lower it onto the fully stacked SLS rocket and connect it to the Orion Stage Adapter. This will require the EGS team to align the spacecraft perfectly with the adapter before gently attaching the two together. This operation will take several hours to make sure Orion is securely in place.

NASA will provide an update once stacking for the Artemis I mission is complete.

Orion Spacecraft Goes ‘Shields Up’ for Artemis I

The four ogive fairings for the Orion Artemis I mission are installed on the launch abort system assembly inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 20, 2021.
The four ogive fairings for the Orion Artemis I mission are installed on the launch abort system assembly inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 20, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are putting the final touches on the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission by connecting the ogive fairings for the launch abort system (LAS) assembly.  Pronounced oh-jive, the ogive fairings consist of four protective panels, and their installation will complete the LAS assembly.

Technicians and engineers from the center’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs recently finished attaching the launch abort tower to the top of the Orion crew module. They then began lifting and mating the lightweight fairings, which will shield the crew module from the severe vibrations and sounds it will experience during launch. One of the fairing panels has a hatch to allow access to the crew module before launch.

During Artemis missions, the 44-foot-tall LAS will detach from the spacecraft when it is no longer needed, shortly after launching on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, to lighten the journey to the Moon. Although the abort motors will not be active on the uncrewed Artemis I flight test, the system is intended to protect astronauts on future missions if a problem arises during launch or ascent by pulling the spacecraft away from a failing rocket.

Once LAS installation is complete, the spacecraft will leave the Launch Abort System Facility and continue on its path to the pad, making its way to the spaceport’s Vehicle Assembly Building to be integrated with the SLS rocket ahead of the launch.

Teams Add Launch Abort System to Ready Orion for Artemis I

NASA's Orion spacecraft
The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrives at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System facility on July 10, 2021, after being transported from the Florida spaceport’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility earlier in the day. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission recently completed fueling and servicing checks while inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule has now made it to its next stop on the path to the pad – the spaceport’s Launch Abort System Facility.

Crowning the spacecraft with its aerodynamic shape, the launch abort system is designed to pull crew away to safety from the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in the event of an emergency during launch. This capability was successfully tested during the Orion Pad Abort and Ascent Abort-2 tests and approved for use during crewed missions.

Teams with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs will work to add parts of the launch abort system onto the spacecraft. Technicians will install four panels that make up the fairing assembly and protect the spacecraft from heat, air, and acoustic environments during launch and ascent. A launch tower will top the fairing assembly to house the pyrotechnics and a jettison motor. The system will also be outfitted with instruments to record key flight data for later study.

With successful demonstration of the system during previous tests, the abort motor that pulls the spacecraft away from the rocket and attitude control motor that steers the spacecraft for a splashdown during an abort will not be functional for the uncrewed Artemis I mission. The jettison motor will be equipped to separate the system from Orion in flight once it is no longer needed, making Orion thousands of pounds lighter for the journey to the Moon.

Once the system’s integration is complete, teams will transport the spacecraft to the center’s Vehicle Assembly Building. There, it will join the already stacked flight hardware and be raised into position atop the SLS rocket, marking the final assembly milestone for the  Artemis rocket.

Launching in 2021, Artemis I will be a test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under Artemis, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and establish long-term lunar exploration.

View additional photos here.

Artemis I Core Stage Arrives at Kennedy

The final piece of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send NASA’s Artemis I mission to the Moon has arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SLS Program delivered the core stage rocket to the center’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf after completing a successful series of Green Run tests at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The 212-foot-tall core stage, which is the largest rocket stage NASA has ever built, completed its voyage aboard the agency’s Pegasus barge on April 27. After a 900-mile journey, teams aboard the barge, which was modified to support SLS’s weight and length, safely piloted the specialized self-sustaining vessel to the spaceport.

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NASA “Meatball” Insignia and ESA Logo Added to Artemis I Fairings

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion space adapter jettison fairing in the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
Artemis I extends NASA and ESA’s (European Space Agency) strong international partnership beyond low-Earth orbit to lunar exploration with Orion on Artemis missions, as 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. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

NASA’s Artemis I Orion 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.

The NASA and ESA insignias are in view on the Orion spacecraft adapter jettison fairing inside the MPPF at Kennedy Space Center.
The ESA (European Space Agency) 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. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

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.

Green Run Update: NASA Investigating Valve Performance Before Second Hot Fire

NASA’s is reviewing the performance of a valve on the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket before proceeding with a second hot fire test at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

During checkout preparations over the weekend, engineers determined that one of eight valves (a type of valve called a prevalve) was not working properly. This valve is part of the core stage main propulsion system that supplies liquid oxygen to an RS-25 engine. During the first hot fire, all four liquid oxygen valves performed as expected as did the four liquid hydrogen valves. NASA and the core stage lead contractor Boeing will identify a path forward in the days ahead and reschedule the hot fire test that was originally scheduled for Feb. 25.

The Artemis I core stage is in the B-2 Test Stand for Green Run testing
The Artemis I core stage is in the B-2 Test Stand for Green Run testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (NASA image)

NASA is testing the new core stage on the ground to check out the operation of all systems before flight, as the agency has done with every new rocket stage ever flown. The core stage is the center core of the rocket that includes two propellant tanks and four RS-25 engines, miles of cables, all the avionics, electronics, computers – the brains of the rocket – and the plumbing that work together to launch the rocket during the first eight minutes of the mission. The Green Run test series is a comprehensive test of the core stage before it launches the Artemis missions to the Moon.

Check back at this blog for an update on the completion of the review and actions needed to resolve the issue, as well as the schedule for the hot fire test. For more information about SLS Green Run, visit https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram/greenrun

Green Run Update: SLS Team Finalizing Preparations for Second Hot Fire Test

The core stage Green Run test team completed a test readiness review today and is preparing for a second hot fire test with the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on Feb. 25.

At the review, NASA, Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engine prime contractor, gave the “go” for proceeding with the test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. In the coming days, the team will conduct systems checkouts and final inspections to ensure the core stage, its four RS-25 engines and the Green Run software and stage controller are ready for the hot fire. Engineers plan to power up the core stage on Tuesday, Feb. 23 ahead of the hot fire. The first SLS core stage hot fire test on Jan. 16, the first time all four engines were ignited, provided the team with significant data that informed process and procedures for the upcoming test.

Green Run Checklist
Green Run is a series of eight tests, and the hot fire is the last and most intensive test. It is an integrated test of the entire core stage with its four RS-25 engines firing at the same time. As the core stage team has completed the checkouts and tests, they have learned and finetuned the operations for this complex new rocket stage. The knowledge gained through testing will help the team as they prepare the core stage for Space Launch System (SLS) launch of the Artemis I mission to the Moon.

The core stage is flight hardware that will be used for the Artemis I mission. For updates, please check this blog or the Green Run web site: https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram/greenrun

Green Run Update: SLS Team Prepares Core Stage for Second Hot Fire Test

The core stage Green Run test team has completed refurbishment activities and is preparing the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage and its four RS-25 engines for a second hot fire test.

After the first SLS core stage hot fire test on Jan. 16 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the team put the stand and core stage in a configuration so that the stage and stand could be refurbished. This involved installing platforms on the test stand so that technicians could inspect, access, and perform procedures on the hardware.

The team has now completed this refurbishment work and conducted a review referred to as “the break of configuration review” to transition the core stage hardware to the test configuration for the second hot fire test. During refurbishment, the team thoroughly inspected the stage, dried the four RS-25 engines, and made minor repairs to the engines and thermal protection system.

The team is also modifying and testing the Green Run software for the flight computers based on data from the first hot fire. The team adjusted parameters used by the software logic, which operating on the flight computers automatically monitors a variety of parameters and controls the test during the terminal countdown and after engine ignition. The updated Green Run software was tested in the systems integration test facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, which has avionics and flight computers identical to the ones in the core stage.

Now, the team is preparing the core stage, the B-2 Test Stand, and the Stennis Test Control Centers for the upcoming hot fire test targeted for the week of Feb. 21. A target date for the test will be announced next week. The core stage is flight hardware that will be used for the Artemis I mission.

This video, the Brains of NASA’s SLS Rocket explains how the SLS avionics system and flight software will work to control the rocket on the Artemis missions. The Green Run test is providing valuable data on how the Green Run test software, which is like the flight software, works with the core stage flight computers to control the rocket.

For updates, please check this blog or the Green Run web site: https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram/greenrun

Green Run Update: Engines Igniting as Hot Fire Gets Underway 

The hot fire is underway for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Engine ignition began at approximately six tenths of a second before T-0, beginning with Engine 1, then Engines 3, 4, and 2 ignited in sequence a few hundredths of a second apart. The test is expected to last about 8 minutes and will include three different power levels for the engines, as well as two 30-second engine gimballing, or pivoting, movements to simulate flight steering commands. Depending on the rate propellant is burned the time is estimated to range from 485 to 493 seconds to simulate launch.

Learn more about Green Run, and check back at this blog for updates on the SLS core stage hot fire test.