Friday, November 8, 2019
NASA / Eric Bordelon
All Four Engines Are Attached to the SLS Core Stage for Artemis I Mission (News Release)
All four RS-25 engines were structurally mated to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for Artemis I, the first mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft. To complete assembly of the rocket stage, engineers and technicians are now integrating the propulsion and electrical systems within the structure.
The completed core stage with all four RS-25 engines attached is the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program that first sent Americans to the Moon. The stage, which includes two huge propellant tanks, provides more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I to the Moon. Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans attached the fourth RS-25 engine to the rocket stage Nov. 6 just one day after structurally mating the third engine. The first two RS-25 engines were structurally mated to the stage in October.
After assembly is complete, crews will conduct an integrated functional test of flight computers, avionics and electrical systems that run throughout the 212-foot-tall core stage in preparation for its completion later this year. This testing is the first time all the flight avionics systems will be tested together to ensure the systems communicate with each other and will perform properly to control the rocket’s flight.
Integration of the RS-25 engines to the massive core stage is a collaborative, multistep process for NASA and its partners Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engines lead contractor.
NASA / Boeing / Aerojet Rocketdyne
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
SLS Update #2: The Core Stage Booster's Test Article Goes Through the Motions at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...
EGS Practices Heavy Lift of Core Stage Pathfinder for Artemis Missions (News Release)
What does it take to lift and stack NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the largest rocket ever built for flight? Weighing in at nearly 225,000 pounds, the core stage of the SLS is one of the largest and heaviest pieces of hardware that will be processed for Artemis missions. To accomplish the task of processing and preparing SLS for launch, Exploration Ground Systems and its contractor, Jacobs, are practicing lifting procedures of the core stage using a full-scale mock-up, called a pathfinder, in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The team is rehearsing moving and lifting maneuvers so that crews are trained on how to handle the core stage and certify all ground support equipment works properly before the actual core stage arrives for Artemis I.
“Practicing handling operations with full-scale pathfinders offers the respective teams essential hands-on experience for working with such immense structures before the one-of-a-kind hardware arrives,” said Mark Prill, core stage pathfinder lead at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The 212-foot-long pathfinder, similar in size, shape and weight to the massive core stage, arrived at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf on Sept. 27, 2019, aboard NASA’s Pegasus barge. The pathfinder was the first delivery on the Pegasus barge in support of the agency’s Artemis missions. It was offloaded and transported to the VAB on Oct. 1.
Inside the VAB transfer aisle, a lifting fixture, called a spider, was attached to the top, or forward ring of the core stage pathfinder. A transportation and integration fixture, developed at Marshall, was used to move the spider to the core stage pathfinder to enable installation. With the spider secured in place, another crane was attached to the pathfinder’s aft end lifting brackets. Workers practiced using the cranes to lift the pathfinder horizontally up from its transporter. Then, crane operators performed a procedure called a breakover to slowly move the pathfinder into the vertical position and lift it up and over Level 16 into High Bay 3. A reverse sequence also was performed, with the core stage lifted up from the high bay, lowered down to the transfer aisle, returned to a horizontal position and secured in its transporter.
“Core stage pathfinder is the first opportunity for the entire Kennedy team to verify, validate and execute the engineering and planning associated with handling of the SLS core stage flight hardware, setting the stage for an experienced workforce and efficient processing for the historic Artemis missions,” said Jim Bolton, EGS Core Stage Element Operations manager.
The team will repeat the process several times to ensure Kennedy engineers and technicians are all trained and certified for future core stage operations.
“Experience is the best teacher,” Prill said. “Pathfinders allow crews to practice the lifting and transporting techniques that we can’t otherwise do with the actual flight hardware. This practice with the pathfinder reduces risk and builds confidence.”
Kennedy’s multi-user spaceport is preparing the facilities and ground support equipment for NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon and on to Mars. The agency is planning to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface.
The core stage pathfinder will remain at Kennedy through at least the end of October, when it is slated to be reloaded onto the Pegasus barge for the trek back to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Source: Linda Herridge at NASA.Gov
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
NASA / Jude Guidry
NASA Attaches First of 4 RS-25 Engines to Artemis I Rocket Stage (News Release)
Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have structurally mated the first of four RS-25 engines to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon. Integration of the RS-25 engines to the recently completed core stage structure is a collaborative, multistep process for NASA and its partners Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engines lead contractor. To complete the installation, the technicians will now integrate the propulsion and electrical systems. The installation process will be repeated for each of the four RS-25 engines.
The four RS-25 engines used for Artemis I were delivered to Michoud from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in June. The engines, located at the bottom of the core stage in a square pattern, are fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. During launch and flight, the four engines will fire nonstop for 8.5 minutes, emitting hot gases from each nozzle 13 times faster than the speed of sound. The completed core stage with all four engines attached will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program.
NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
NASA Commits to Future Artemis Missions With More SLS Rocket Stages (News Release)
NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support as many as 10 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.
The agency intends to work with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions, for the production of SLS rockets through the next decade. The core stage is the center part of the rocket that contains the two giant liquid fuel tanks. Towering 212 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, it will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and all the systems that will feed the stage’s four RS-25 engines. It also houses the flight computers and much of the avionics needed to control the rocket’s flight.
NASA has provided initial funding and authorization to Boeing to begin work toward the production of the third core stage and to order targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases to support future builds of core stages. This action allows Boeing to manufacture the third core stage in time for the 2024 mission, Artemis III, while NASA and Boeing work on negotiations to finalize the details of the full contract within the next year. The full contract is expected to support up to 10 core stages and up to eight Exploration Upper Stages (EUS).
“It is urgent that we meet the President’s goal to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, and SLS is the only rocket that can help us meet that challenge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “These initial steps allow NASA to start building the core stage that will launch the next astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface and build the powerful exploration upper stage that will expand the possibilities for Artemis missions by sending hardware and cargo along with humans or even heavier cargo needed to explore the Moon or Mars.”
Boeing’s current contract includes the SLS core stages for the Artemis I and Artemis II missions and the first EUS, as well as structural test articles and the core stage pathfinder. The new contract is expected to realize substantial savings compared to the production costs of core stages built during the design, development, test and evaluation phase by applying lessons learned during first-time builds and gaining efficiencies through bulk purchases.
“NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to continue Space Launch System core stage production in support of that effort to help bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager at Marshall. “SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission, and no other rocket in production today can send as much cargo to deep space as the Space Launch System rocket.
For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS. The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions.
“The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. “The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99,000 pounds, to lunar orbit.”
The Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Human Landing System are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. Work is well underway on both the Artemis I and II rockets, with core stage assembly nearly complete at Michoud. Soon, the stage will be shipped to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where it will undergo Green Run testing, an integrated test of the entire new stage that culminates with the firing of all four RS-25 engines. Upon completion of the test, NASA’s Pegasus barge will take the core stage to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket and Orion for Artemis I. Boeing also has completed manufacturing most of the main core stage structures for Artemis II.
The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration. It’s part of NASA’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which we will quickly and sustainably explore the Moon and use what we learn there to enable humanity’s next giant leap, sending astronauts to Mars.
NASA / Steven Seipel
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Orion Suit Equipped to Expect the Unexpected on Artemis Missions (News Release)
When astronauts are hours away from launching on Artemis missions to the Moon, they’ll put on a brightly colored orange spacesuit called the Orion Crew Survival System (OCSS) suit. It is designed for a custom fit and equipped with safety technology and mobility features to help protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth.
Many missions require two spacesuits – one worn outside a spacecraft during spacewalks that is designed as a self-contained personal spaceship, and another worn inside a spacecraft during high-risk parts of a mission, such as inside Orion during launch and reentry through Earth’s atmosphere. NASA is building both for Artemis missions. Drawing on six decades of spaceflight experience, NASA is developing its Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU, for moonwalks, and has reengineered elements of the crew survival suit worn on the space shuttle to enhance range of motion and improve safety for the astronauts who will wear it to get to the Moon and back to Earth.
The Orion suit, sometimes called a flight suit or a launch and entry suit, has been enhanced from head to toe with improvements to the suit worn on shuttle missions. Starting at the top, a number of features on the helmet allow for improved comfort and function. The helmet is lighter, stronger, comes in more than one size, helps reduce noise and is easier to connect to the communications system needed to talk to other crew members and mission control.
The outer cover layer, which is orange to make crew members easily recognizable in the ocean should they ever need to exit Orion without the assistance of recovery personnel, includes shoulder enhancements for better reach and is fire resistant. The suit is a pressure garment that includes a restraint layer to control the shape and ease astronauts’ movements. A reengineered zipper also allows astronauts to quickly put the suit on and has increased strength. New adaptable interfaces supply air and remove exhaled carbon-dioxide. The suit has an improved thermal management that will help keep astronauts cool and dry. A liquid cooling garment is worn underneath the suit, a bit like thermal underwear with embedded cooling tubes, was revamped to be more breathable and easier to build.
While shuttle-era spacesuits came in off-the-shelf sizes like small, medium and large, the Orion suits will be custom fit for each crew member and accommodate astronauts of all sizes. The patterns of the suit now minimize the spots of discomfort common during the shuttle era when worn pressurized for long periods of time. The suits’ gloves, the part of a spacesuit that receives the most wear and tear, are more durable and touch-screen compatible, and improvements to the boots provide protection in the case of fire, fit better, and help an astronaut move more nimbly.
Even though it’s primarily designed for launch and reentry, the Orion suit can keep astronauts alive if Orion were to lose cabin pressure during the journey out to the Moon, while adjusting orbits in Gateway, or on the way back home. Astronauts could survive inside the suit for up to six days as they make their way back to Earth. The suits are also equipped with a suite of survival gear in the event they have to exit Orion after splashdown before recovery personnel arrive. Each suit will carry its own life preserver that contains a personal locator beacon, a rescue knife, and a signaling kit with a mirror, strobe light, flashlight, whistle, and light sticks.
Through extensive design and engineering enhancements, the Orion suit will help provide an additional layer of protection for astronauts who embark on Artemis missions to the Moon and prepare for future missions to Mars.
NASA / Joel Kowsky
Monday, September 23, 2019
NASA / Radislav Sinyak
NASA Commits to Long-term Artemis Missions with Orion Production Contract (Press Release)
NASA is setting in motion the Orion spacecraft production line to support as many as 12 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.
The agency has awarded the Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) to Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado. Spacecraft production for the Orion program, managed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, will focus on reusability and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.
“This is a great day for the men and women at Johnson Space Center. They are crucial to our national space program, and have an undeniable legacy and record of success in advancing America’s leadership in the human exploration of space,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “I am pleased that Administrator Bridenstine has heeded my calls and is taking significant steps to ensure that Johnson continues to grow with the exciting future of manned exploration that lies ahead. More needs to be done, and I look forward to production ramping up in the weeks and months to come and to more opportunities with NASA.”
OPOC is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.
“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”
With this award, NASA is ordering three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III through V for $2.7 billion. The agency plans to order three additional Orion capsules in fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII, at a total of $1.9 billion. Ordering the spacecraft in groups of three allows NASA to benefit from efficiencies that become available in the supply chain over time – efficiencies that optimize production and lower costs.
Spacecraft reusability – itself a significant cost saver for the agency – will help NASA build the capabilities for sustainable exploration at the Moon and beyond. The long-term plan is to reuse the recovered crew modules at least once. The first phase of reusability will start with Artemis II. Interior components of the spacecraft, such as flight computers and other high value electronics, as well as crew seats and switch panels, will be re-flown on Artemis V. The Artemis III crew module will be re-flown on Artemis VI.
The first six spacecraft will be acquired by cost-plus-incentive-fee ordering. Because the cost of a complex, high-tech system generally decreases over time as the design stabilizes and production processes mature, NASA will negotiate firm-fixed-price orders for future missions to take advantage of the anticipated spacecraft production cost decreases. Furthermore, the cost incentives on the cost-plus-incentive-fee orders are designed to motivate favorable cost performance during early OPOC production and drive substantially lower prices for any subsequent firm-fixed-price orders issued under this contract.
“As the only vehicle capable of deep space exploration, the Orion spacecraft is critical to America’s continued leadership,” said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas. “Today’s announcement signals that we are moving closer towards operation and production. While I look forward to learning more of the details, it’s encouraging to see that this program is moving along as it should be. I am proud of the Orion program team and contractor partners at Johnson Space Center as they move towards getting the vehicle ‘flight ready.’ Without the brilliant minds and extraordinary leadership of the hard-working men and women at Johnson, our country would not be the preeminent spacefaring nation in the world.”
Work under this contract also will support production of NASA’s lunar-orbiting Gateway and evolving mission requirements. Production of certain spacecraft components already designed and qualified for Orion will be provided for Gateway use, eliminating the need for the Gateway Program to develop and qualify similar components.
“The men and women at Johnson Space Center represent the best and brightest scientific minds, and I’m confident with additional Orion spacecraft they will push the limits of exploration to the Moon and beyond,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “I commend the Trump Administration for recognizing the importance and tradition of Houston as the center of human spaceflight and exploring the next frontier.”
Houston has long been the hub of America’s human space exploration program, from the early days of Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo to Artemis. With NASA’s accelerated return to the Moon, Johnson Space Center now is managing more major human spaceflight programs than ever before. In addition to the Orion program, the Texas facility also manages NASA’s Gateway and International Space Station programs, and is home to the Mission Control Center and America’s astronaut corps – the next moonwalkers. Johnson also manages the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, the first two deliveries for which are targeted to launch to the Moon in July 2021.
“No other spacecraft in the world can keep humans alive hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth for weeks at a time with the safety features, crew accommodations, technical innovations, and reliability that Orion provides,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager at Johnson. “With the design and development phase of Orion largely behind us, this new contract will enable us to increase efficiencies, reuse the spacecraft, and bring down the cost of reliably transporting people between Earth and the Gateway.”
NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in five years as part of the agency’s Artemis program. Orion, the Space Launch System rocket and Gateway are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. Work is well underway on both the Artemis I and II Orion spacecraft. Engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida have completed and attached the crew and service modules for Artemis I and are preparing the spacecraft for environmental testing. Meanwhile, teams at Kennedy are integrating thousands of parts into the crew module for Artemis II in preparation for the first crewed Artemis mission.
The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration. It’s part of NASA’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which we will quickly and sustainably explore the Moon and use what we learn there to enable humanity’s next giant leap, sending astronauts to Mars.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
NASA / Steven Seipel
NASA Joins Last of Five Sections for Space Launch System Rocket Stage (News Release)
NASA finished assembling and joining the main structural components for the largest rocket stage the agency has built since the Saturn V that sent Apollo astronauts to the Moon. Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans connected the last of the five sections of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. The stage will produce 2 million pounds of thrust to send Artemis I, the first flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon.
“NASA has achieved a historic first milestone by completing the final join of the core stage structure for NASA’s Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket,” said Julie Bassler, the NASA SLS stages manager. “Now, to complete the stage, NASA will add the four RS-25 engines and complete the final integrated avionics and propulsion functional tests. This is an exciting time as we finish the first-time production of the complex core stage that will provide the power to send the Artemis I mission to the Moon.”
The last piece added to the stage was the engine section located at the bottom of the 212-foot-tall core stage. To complete the structure, technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank, which was recently attached to the other core stage structures. The engine section is one of the most complicated pieces of hardware for the SLS rocket and is the attachment point for the four RS-25 rockets and the two solid rocket boosters that produce a combined 8.8 millions pounds of thrust. The engine section also includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the stage’s two liquid propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines. This fall, NASA will work with core stage lead contractor, Boeing, and the RS-25 engine lead contractor, Aerojet Rocketdyne, to attach the four RS-25 engines and connect them to the main propulsion systems inside the engine section.
“Boeing expects to complete final assembly of the Artemis I core stage in December,” said Jennifer Boland-Masterson, Boeing operations direct at MAF. “After we deliver the stage, NASA will transport it on the agency’s Pegasus barge from Michoud to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for Green Run testing. Our team here at Michoud will continue work with NASA to build, outfit and assemble the core stage for Artemis II, the first mission that will send astronauts to orbit the Moon. Lessons learned and innovations developed in building the first core stage are making the second one progress much faster.”
During Green Run testing, engineers will install the core stage into the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis for a series of tests that will build like a crescendo over several months. This will be the first fully fueled test of this brand new rocket stage. Many aspects will be carried out for the first time, such as fueling and pressurizing the stage, and the test series culminates with firing up all four engines to demonstrate that the engines, tanks, fuel lines, valves, pressurization system, and software can all perform together as they will on launch day.
The SLS team also achieved another recent milestone by completing structural testing for the stage’s liquid hydrogen tank. The testing confirmed that the structural design for the tank on the rocket’s initial configuration, called Block 1, can withstand extreme conditions during launch and flight. Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, put a test version of the tank through the paces during 37 separate test cases that exceed what engineers expect the SLS rocket to experience. The final test used 80,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen to simulate the cryogenic conditions, or extreme cold, that the liquid hydrogen tank will experience in flight. Testing will continue later this year to show the tank’s structural design is adequate for future designs of the vehicle as it evolves to a Block IB configuration and missions with even greater forces.
In addition to providing propellant and power to get the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to space, the core stage houses the flight computers and avionics components that control the first 8 minutes of flight. The avionics system, including the flight computers, completed integrated system level qualification testing showing the components all work together to control the rocket in the Software Integration and Test Facility (SITF) at Marshall. The next step is to test the flight software with all the ground system software, Orion and launch control in the Systems Integration Laboratory at Marshall.
“NASA and our contractor teams are making tremendous progress on every aspect of manufacturing, assembling and testing the complex systems needed to land American astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024,” Bassler said. “I am confident this hard work will result in a rocket that can provide the backbone for deep space transportation to the Moon and ultimately to Mars.”
NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and the Human Landing System are the backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
NASA / Steven Seipel
Engine Section for NASA's SLS Rocket Moved for Final Integration (News Release)
Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans moved the engine section for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to another part of the facility on Sept. 3 to prepare it for joining to the rest of the rocket’s core stage. The engine section, which comprises the lowest portion of the 212-foot-tall stage, is the last major component to be horizontally integrated to the core stage. The flight hardware will be used for Artemis I, the first lunar mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
Crews completed assembly on the engine section on Aug. 29. NASA and Boeing engineers removed the scaffolding surrounding the hardware to use a special tool to properly position the engine section for its attachment to the rest of the stage. The core stage’s two liquid propellant tanks and four RS-25 engines will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send the SLS rocket and Orion on the Artemis lunar missions. The engine section houses the four RS-25 engines and includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.
NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are the backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Almost three hours ago, SpaceX's Starhopper prototype vehicle successfully lifted off from its launch site at the company's Boca Chica facility in southern Texas. The test flight lasted 57 seconds...with the watertower-shaped booster, which was powered by a single methane-fueled Raptor engine, reaching an altitude of 150 meters (almost 500 feet) before making a bulls-eye landing in the middle of an adjoining landing pad to conclude this demonstration. Supposedly, this will be Starhopper's final flight—as SpaceX will prepare for orbital tests using a pair of Starship replicas that are simultaneously being built in Boca Chica and Florida's Space Coast, respectively. It remains to be seen when those rockets will soar into the air...but for the time being, SpaceX should celebrate this latest accomplishment that shows that Elon Musk's aerospace firm is truly on the path to sending a human-rated spacecraft to Mars by the end of next decade.
Video courtesy of Mary - @BocaChicaGal on Twitter.com
Monday, August 26, 2019
NASA / SSC
NASA Prepares for Green Run Testing, Practices Lifting SLS Core Stage (News Release)
NASA cleared a milestone in preparation for Green Run testing of its Space Launch System (SLS) core stage with an Aug. 23/24 lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder simulator onto the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The lift and installation of the core stage pathfinder – a size and weight replica of the SLS core stage – is helping teams at Stennis prepare for the Green Run test series. For this test of the new core stage, Stennis will lift the flight core stage for Artemis 1, the first SLS mission into the stand. SLS and the new Orion spacecraft being built are the foundation for NASA’s Artemis Program, which will send the first woman and next man to walk on the Moon by 2024.
Stennis modified the B-2 Test Stand for the core stage Green Run testing. The procedure involved lifting the core stage pathfinder from its horizontal position on the B-2 Test Stand tarmac with the facility boom crane line attached to the forward end and a ground crane line attached to the aft end. The pathfinder then was “broken over” into a vertical position. Once the ground crane line was disconnected, the core stage pathfinder was lifted into place by the stand boom crane. This “fit test” validated auxiliary lift equipment, procedures, and verified that stand modifications and preparations are in place and prepared for delivery and testing of the SLS core stage flight hardware.
To prepare for the test, Stennis modified or upgraded every major area and system of the test stand, as well as the high-pressure industrial water system and high-pressure gas facility that support test operations. NASA is building the SLS flight core stage at its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and is scheduled for transport to Stennis by the end of the year. The stage recently completed a critical review in preparation for adding the last piece of the core stage structure: the engine section. After this piece is added, the four RS-25 engines can be connected to the stage. When the stage is completely assembled, NASA’s Pegasus barge will deliver it to Stennis.
For the Green Run test, the core stage flight unit will be lifted and installed onto the B-2 stand, using procedures developed and practiced during the recent core stage pathfinder lift. NASA then will conduct a series of tests to check out stage systems and make sure all are working as needed. Once systems are checked, NASA will conduct a full hot fire test of the stage, firing its four RS-25 engines simultaneously, just as during an actual launch. The hot fire test will generate more than 2 million pounds of combined thrust and provide critical performance data needed to demonstrate the core stage design is flightworthy and ready for launch.
Following necessary refurbishment of the stage, it will be transported by barge to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At Kennedy, the stage will be mated with other SLS major elements and prepared for launch of the Artemis 1 mission.
NASA / SSC