Artemis I Launch Team Fires Up Fueling Simulation

The Artemis I launch team rehearses loading the SLS rocket with propellants on Aug. 18, 2020.
Inside the Launch Control Center’s Firing Room 1 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, members of the Artemis I launch team rehearse the procedures for fueling the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with super cold propellants, or cryogenics, on Aug. 18, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Chad Siwik

The launch team for Artemis I is back in the firing room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for more practice. The team conducted a simulation on the procedures for cryogenic loading, or fueling the Space Launch System rocket with super cold propellants. During simulations potential problems are introduced to the team to test the application of firing room tools, processes, and procedures.

The Exploration Ground Systems team of launch controllers who will oversee the countdown and liftoff of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will be practicing the procedures several more times ahead of launch. Special protocols have been put in place to keep personnel safe and healthy, including limiting personnel in the firing room, using acrylic dividers and adjusting assigned seating for the cryo team.

NASA Motor Test Helps Evaluate New SLS Materials

A test firing with a 24-inch solid rocket booster on Aug. 6 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama will help engineers evaluate a new cleaning solvent for Space Launch System (SLS) booster nozzles. Tests with the smaller motor segment provides data so that engineers can determine if the new material warrants further pursuit for use on future SLS rockets. (NASA/Tyson Eason)

Every detail that goes into space exploration matters. While habitat design or making sure a rocket is powerful enough to launch supplies are obviously important, what may be less apparent are the smaller things, including the solvents used in manufacturing materials for spaceflight.

On Aug. 6, a 22-second hot fire test in the East Test Area at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, helped NASA and Northrop Grumman Corporation in Promontory, Utah – the solid rocket booster prime contractor – evaluate a new nozzle material for the Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters. These boosters produce more than 75 percent of the power to launch the rocket.

The nozzle construction enables the boosters to provide consistent performance while withstanding the 5,000 degree Fahrenheit flame produced as the solid fuel is burned to launch the rocket.  Such material changes are checked out in phases from sub-scale to full-scale tests and this 24-inch motor was a significant step in that process. Using a 24-inch-diameter, 20-foot-long sub-scale test motor that burned nearly 1,800 pounds of propellant and produced 23,000 pounds of thrust, the team collected data to help verify use of the solvent on future SLS flights beyond Artemis III.

“This 24-inch motor test is to evaluate the material in a solid rocket motor environment and make sure that we don’t get any unexpected changes in how it performs,” said Tim Lawrence, manager for motor and booster separation motor systems at Marshall.

While the solid rocket boosters that will be used on NASA’s Space Launch System – which this test supports – are 177 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter, the motor used in the test is still large enough to produce valuable data.

“This booster is only 24-inches but the ability to fire it in a test stand helps us get the data we need to confirm that we want to test it in a larger, full-scale test,” Dennis Strickland, the test conductor said.

In addition to data about the solvent’s effects on the material during motor operation, engineers also collected information about its behavior during booster assembly.

“The 24-inch motor is large enough that we were able to use the same processes to manufacture the nozzle as are used on the full-scale motor and that gives us confidence it will provide a good indication of full-scale performance,” Lawrence explained.

While the verification test was to primarily support the SLS rocket, the test data may also be used by other government agencies to help advance their solid rocket propulsion technology as NASA and the agencies routinely share data with other government agencies and industry. Data sharing enhances capabilities and maximizes the return on investment for the taxpayer.

NASA’s SLS booster is based on three decades of knowledge and experience gained with the space shuttle boosters and has been updated with the latest technology. The agency is working to design, develop, and test next-generation boosters that will power SLS flights after all available shuttle-era hardware is expended. NASA has cast segments for the Artemis I and Artemis II lunar missions, the first two SLS flights, and has begun casting the Artemis III mission. Northrop Grumman delivered the segments for Artemis I to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 15.

SLS and the Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration and the Artemis program, which will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Four Down, Four to Go: Artemis I Rocket Moves Closer to Hot Fire Test

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is completing the Green Run test for the rocket’s core stage, shown installed on the top left side of the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Credits: NASA/Stennis

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage for the Artemis I lunar mission has successfully completed its first four Green Run tests and is building on those tests for the next phase of checkout as engineers require more capability of the hardware before hot-firing the stage and its four powerful engines.

On Aug. 5, engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St Louis, Mississippi, where the stage is loaded into the B-2 Test Stand, completed the fourth of eight planned tests of the 212-foot-tall core stage. For Test 4, engineers performed the initial functional checkout of the main propulsion system components to verify command and control operability (valve response, timing, etc.) and performed leak checks on the core stage-to-facility umbilical fluid and gas connections.

Green Run is a demanding series of eight tests and nearly 30 firsts: first loading of the propellant tanks, first flow through the propellant feed systems, first firing of all four engines, and first exposure of the stage to the vibrations and temperatures of launch.

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Key Connection for Artemis I Arrives at Kennedy

Technicians with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems move the launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on July 30, 2020, for processing.

The second to last piece of hardware for the Artemis I test flight around the Moon has arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) connects the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to the upper stage, called the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage. The cone-shaped connector also helps protect the RL10 engine housed in the upper stage, which will provide the power necessary to leave Earth’s orbit and send the Orion spacecraft on its journey to the Moon.

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NASA Teams Load Artemis I Rocket Hardware on Barge for Trip to Kennedy

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s launch vehicle stage adapter. Credits: NASA/Fred Deaton

Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, moved the Artemis I launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket onto the agency’s Pegasus barge July 17.

The adapter is the cone shaped piece that connects the rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS). Pegasus will transport the flight hardware to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket in preparation for launch.

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NASA Pins Down First Step in SLS Stacking for Artemis I

Inside the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Payton Jones, at left, a launch vehicle processing technician, and Bradley Bundy, a spaceflight technician, both with Jacobs, complete the first mate pinning of the right-hand motor segment to the right-hand aft skirt on one of the two solid rocket boosters for the agency’s Space Launch System. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

About a dozen technicians and engineers from Exploration Ground Systems worked together recently at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to carry out the first step in stacking the twin solid rocket boosters that help launch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the first Artemis lunar mission.

Inside the Florida spaceport’s Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility, the NASA and Jacobs team completed a pin. The pinning activity involved using bolts to attach one of five segments that make up one of two solid rocket boosters for SLS to the rocket’s aft skirt. A crane crew assisted in mating the aft segments to the rocket’s two aft skirts.

A handful of the team members gained pinning experience on boosters for the space shuttle, while the rest were first-time pinners. Pablo Martinez, Jacobs TOSC handling, mechanical and structures engineer, inserted the first of 177 pins per joint to complete the first official step in stacking the SLS boosters.

The next step is a move to Kennedy’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building to await stacking on the mobile launcher.

Manufactured by Northrop Grumman in Utah, the 177-foot-tall twin boosters provide more than 75 percent of the total SLS thrust at launch. SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built.

The SLS rocket will launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft and send it to the Moon for Artemis I — a mission to test the two as an integrated system, leading up to human missions to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.

View a video of booster segment mate pinning.

Artemis II Orion Stage Adapter Taking Shape

Technicians at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, move panels for the Artemis II Orion stage adapter to a large robotic, welding machine.

Three panels for the Artemis II Orion stage adapter were built by AMRO Fabricating Corp. in South El Monte, California and shipped to Marshall where engineers and technicians from NASA are joining them using a sophisticated friction-stir welding process to form the Orion stage adapter. This critical part of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will send the Artemis II crew into lunar orbit. AMRO also built panels for the Artemis II launch vehicle stage adapter also currently being built at Marshall and the SLS core stage and the Orion crew module built at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. All panels where joined with the same friction-stir welding process. The Artemis I Orion stage adapter, also built at Marshall, has been delivered to Kennedy Space Center where it will be stacked with the rest of the SLS rocket components.  The adapter connects the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, the rocket’s upper stage that sends Orion to the Moon, to the Orion spacecraft. The Orion stage adapter has space for small payloads; on Artemis I it will transport 13 small satellites to deep space where they can study everything from asteroids to the Moon and radiation. SLS, the world’s most powerful rocket, along with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, will launch America into a new era of exploration to destinations beyond Earth’s orbit.

NASA Checks Out SLS Core Stage Avionics for Artemis I Mission

NASA completed  the second of eight tests in the Green Run test series at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage is installed in the B-2 Test Stand. The avionics power on and checkout test steadily brought the core stage flight avionics hardware, which controls the rocket’s first eight minutes of flight, to life for the first time. The three flight computers and avionics are located in the forward skirt, the top section of the 212-foot tall core stage, with more avionics distributed in the core’s intertank and engine section.

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NASA Completes Artemis Space Launch System Structural Testing Campaign

On June 24, 2020, engineers completed the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s structural testing campaign for the Artemis lunar missions by testing the liquid oxygen structural test article to find its point of failure.

For the final test, the liquid oxygen tank test article — measuring 70 feet tall and 28 feet in diameter — was bolted into a massive 185,000-pound steel ring at the base of Marshall’s Test Stand 4697. Hydraulic cylinders were then calibrated and positioned all along the tank to apply millions of pounds of crippling force from all sides while engineers measured and recorded the effects of the launch and flight forces. The liquid oxygen tank circumferentially failed in the weld location as engineers predicted and at the approximate load levels expected, proving flight readiness and providing critical data for the tank’s designers. The test concluded at approximately 9 p.m. CT. This final test to failure on the LOX STA met all the program milestones.

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