Thursday, July 9, 2020

Artemis 1 Update: Green Run Test #3 Is Completed for the Space Launch System's Core Stage Booster...

An infographic showing the eight Green Run tests that the Space Launch System's core stage booster needs to complete before it embarks on the Artemis 1 mission next year.
NASA / Kevin O’Brien

Artemis Testing: NASA SLS Green Run Checklist (News Release)

The core stage Green Run test series of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is currently underway. Crews installed the 212-foot-tall core stage -- the same rocket hardware that will be used for the first Artemis mission to the Moon -- in the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for the core stage Green Run test series in January 2020.

The comprehensive, eight-part test series, or run, will steadily bring the core stage flight hardware, or new, “green” hardware, to life for the first time. The test series culminates with a “hot fire” as all four RS-25 engines fire simultaneously. The maximum thrust of the four RS-25 engines during launch and ascent is 2 million pounds.

During Green Run testing in the B-2 Test Stand, the RS-25 engine thrust peaks at 1.6 million pounds, which is the maximum thrust the engines produce at sea level on the launch pad. The core stage design will be used for all configurations of the SLS rocket, and the series of eight tests will verify the stage is ready for the first and future Artemis lunar missions. This infographic will be updated with check marks in real time to indicate the progress NASA had made in testing the largest rocket stage the agency has manufactured since the Apollo Program that first sent astronauts to the Moon.

NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and Orion, along with the Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Source: NASA.Gov

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A low-angle view of the Space Launch System's core stage booster atop the B-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
NASA

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Artemis 2 Update #2: A Major Component on Orion is Almost Ready for Flight...

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians finish applying more than 180 blocks of ablative material to the heat shield that will be attached to the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 2 mission.
NASA / Isaac Watson

Heat Shield Milestone Complete for First Orion Mission with Crew (News Release)

Technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently finished meticulously applying more than 180 blocks of ablative material to the heat shield for the Orion spacecraft set to carry astronauts around the Moon on Artemis II.

The heat shield is one of the most critical elements of Orion and protects the capsule and the astronauts inside from the nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, about half as hot at the Sun, experienced during reentry through Earth’s atmosphere when coming home from lunar velocities.

Prior to installation, several large blocks of the ablative material called AVCOAT were produced at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. They were then shipped to Kennedy and machined into 186 unique smaller blocks before being applied by the technicians onto the heat shield’s underlying titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin.

To continue preparing the heat shield, engineers will conduct non-destructive evaluations to look for voids in the bond lines, as well as measure the steps and gaps between the blocks. The gaps will be filled with adhesive material and then reassessed. The heatshield will then undergo a thermal test after which it will be sealed, painted and then taped to help weather on-orbit thermal conditions. Once all testing has been completed, later this year the heat shield will be installed and bolted to the crew module.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. Orion, along with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. Artemis II will be the first crewed mission of Orion atop the SLS rocket.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The heat shield for the Orion Artemis 2 spacecraft on display at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / Isaac Watson

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

CST-100 Update: Boeing Is One Step Closer to Re-flying Starliner on Orbital Flight Test-2...

An artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner in low-Earth orbit.
Boeing

NASA and Boeing Complete Orbital Flight Test Reviews (News Release)

NASA and Boeing have completed major reviews of the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December 2019 and are continuing with preparations to re-fly the test, designated Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“NASA and Boeing have completed a tremendous amount of work reviewing the issues experienced during the uncrewed flight test of Starliner,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator at NASA. “Ultimately, everything we’ve found will help us improve as we move forward in the development and testing of Starliner, and in our future work with commercial industry as a whole.”

The joint NASA-Boeing Independent Review team completed the final assessment into the intermittent space-to-ground communication issue detected during the first uncrewed Orbital Flight Test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. The review team previously completed its investigation into the two other primary anomalies experienced during the test.

With the completion of the investigation’s third and final focus area, the review team identified a total of 80 recommendations that Boeing, in collaboration with NASA, is addressing, with action plans for each already well under way. Although the full list of recommendations is company sensitive and proprietary, the categories of the corrective and preventative actions are as follows:

- Testing and Simulation: 21 recommendations including the need for greater hardware and software integration testing; performance of an end-to-end “run for record” test prior to each flight using the maximum amount of flight hardware available; reviewing subsystem behaviors and limitations; and addressing any identified simulation or emulation gaps.
- Requirements: 10 recommendations including an assessment of all software requirements with multiple logic conditions to ensure test coverage.
- Process and Operational Improvements: 35 recommendations including modifications to change board documentation; bolstering required participants in peer reviews and test data reviews; and increasing the involvement of subject matter experts in safety critical areas.
- Software: 7 recommendations including updating the software code and associated artifacts to correct the Mission Elapsed Timer Epoch and Service Module disposal anomalies; and making the antenna selection algorithm more robust.
- Knowledge Capture and Hardware Modification: 7 recommendations such as organizational changes to the safety reporting structure; amending the Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) approach; and the addition of an external Radio Frequency (RF) filter to reject out-of-band interference.

As a result of this work and Boeing’s separate analysis, the company proactively announced in April it would fly a second orbital test at no cost to the government to prove the Starliner system meets NASA’s requirements, including docking to the space station.

Boeing and NASA have asked the independent review team to remain engaged as a valuable and important partner in the Starliner’s path to crewed flight. Additionally, lessons learned from the Starliner’s first uncrewed flight test are being shared across the human spaceflight community to strengthen the industry as a whole.

“As vital as it is to understand the technical causes that resulted in the flight test not fulfilling all of its planned objectives, it’s equally as important to understand how those causes connect to organizational factors that could be contributors,” said Jurczyk. “That’s why NASA also decided to perform a high visibility close call review that looked at our combined teams.”

NASA has now also completed the high visibility close call investigation to specifically review the organizational factors within NASA and Boeing that could have contributed to the flight test anomalies. The close call investigation team, established in March, was tasked with developing recommendations that could be used to prevent similar close calls from occurring in the future.

The close call team built off the technical findings of the joint independent review team related to the software coding errors made during the development of the spacecraft. The team also received additional briefings, held subject matter expert discussions and conducted interviews across the organizations.

Based on the findings, the team developed the following recommendations for the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to incorporate into future programs:

- Require that the systems engineering management plan delivered by each contractor contain specific requirements related to the contractor’s management approach.
- Ensure that NASA reviews and approves the contractor’s hazard verification test plans prior to test execution.
- Ensure NASA independent validation and verification (IV&V) teams provide insight to contractor IV&V agents.
- Implement an approach that ensures alternate standards are reviewed and approved prior to beginning development work.
- Develop a best practices document for use by future programs that implement the shared accountability model used in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
- Evaluate Boeing’s actions developed by the joint independent review team for applicability post-certification.

With the development of these recommendations, the high visibility close call investigation has concluded.

“I can’t stress enough how committed the Boeing team has been throughout this process,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA. “Boeing has worked collaboratively with NASA to perform these detailed assessments. To be clear, we have a lot more work ahead, but these significant steps help us move forward on the path toward resuming our flight tests.”

Boeing and NASA have not yet established a launch date for OFT-2.

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Artemis 2 Update: Components Continue to be Built for Orion's First Crewed Flight to the Moon...

Two technicians move a panel for the Orion stage adapter--which will fly on the Artemis 2 mission to the Moon--across the floor at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
NASA

NASA Assembles Artemis II Orion Stage Adapter (News Release)

Technicians at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have moved panels for the Artemis II Orion stage adapter to a large robotic, welding machine. Three panels 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 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 were 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 (ICPS), the rocket’s upper stage that sends Orion to the Moon, to the Orion spacecraft.

The Orion stage adaptor 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 is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS, along with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Artemis 1 Update: The SLS Core Stage Is Powered On for the First Time During the Green Run Test...

A low-angle view of the Space Launch System's core stage booster atop the B-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
NASA

NASA Checks Out SLS Core Stage Avionics for Artemis I Mission (News Release - June 30)

The flight computers and avionics of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage for the Artemis I mission were powered on and have completed a thorough systems checkout. The test used Green Run software that was developed for the test and loaded in the flight computers for the first time. The SLS avionics power on and checkout was the second of eight tests in the Green Run test series at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where the core stage is installed in the B-2 Test Stand. The test steadily brought the core stage flight 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 as shown in the right image. Engineers from NASA and Boeing, the core stage prime contractor, worked in control rooms as the avionic systems inside the Artemis I core stage were checked out. While this is the first time the Green Run software was used to control all the avionics in the flight core stage, engineers qualified the avionics and computers with earlier tests in the Systems Integration and Test Facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The core stage will provide more than 2 million pounds of thrust to help launch Artemis I, the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis 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 NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the Human Landing System, and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

NASA Sets Its Sights on Future SLS Flights...

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers work on one of the solid rocket booster segments that will fly with the Space Launch System on Artemis 1 next year.
NASA

NASA Plans for More SLS Rocket Boosters to Launch Artemis Moon Missions (Press Release - June 29)

NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters to support as many as six additional flights, for a total of up to nine Artemis missions. The agency is continuing to work with Northrop Grumman of Brigham City, Utah, the current lead contractor for the solid rocket boosters that will launch the first three Artemis missions, including the mission that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024.

Under this letter contract, with a potential value of $49.5 million, NASA will provide initial funding and authorization to Northrop Grumman to order long-lead items to support building the twin boosters for the next six SLS flights. Northrop Grumman will be able to make purchases as the details of the full contract are finalized within the next year. The full Boosters Production and Operations Contract is expected to support booster production and operations for SLS flights 4-9. The period of performance for the letter contract is 150 days; the definitized contract will extend through Dec. 31, 2030.

“This initial step ensures that NASA can build the boosters needed for future Space Launch System rockets that will be needed for the Artemis missions to explore the Moon,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “The letter contract allows us to buy long-lead materials in time for manufacturing boosters for the fourth flight.”

The twin solid rocket boosters, which are mounted on the side of the SLS core stage, will produce more than 75% percent of the thrust for each SLS launch. The boosters were based on the design of the space shuttle solid rocket boosters but include a fifth segment to produce the extra power needed to send the larger SLS rocket to space.

“We’re ready to process and stack the boosters for the Artemis I mission, and we are making great progress producing boosters for the Artemis II and III missions,” said Bruce Tiller, manager of the SLS Boosters office at Marshall. “NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to have boosters ready when needed for future missions.”

Northrop Grumman has delivered the 10 solid rocket booster segments to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There they will be stacked with other booster components outfitted at Kennedy and readied for launch. Casting is complete for the solid rocket motor segments for Artemis II and is underway for the Artemis III crew lunar landing mission.

Recently, NASA conducted SLS procurement activities to acquire additional RS-25 engines and core stages for future SLS flights. The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage for the second Artemis mission, as well as the launch vehicle stage adapter and Orion stage adapter are in the initial phase of manufacturing in Alabama.

The SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Human Landing System are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration. It’s part of America’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which astronauts will explore the Moon and experience gained there to enable humanity’s next giant leap, sending humans to Mars.

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Canada Is 'GO' to Support NASA's Gateway at the Moon...

An artist's concept of Canadarm3 attached to NASA's Gateway outpost as it orbits the Moon.
Canadian Space Agency, NASA

Building the Next Canadarm (Press Release - June 26)

Canada looks to Canadian company MDA to build Gateway Canadarm3 for Artemis Deep Space Missions

Longueuil, Quebec - Canada is taking another important step forward in its participation in the next chapter of Moon exploration. Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced Canada intends to enter into a contract with Brampton-based company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Inc. (MDA) to build Canadarm3.

This smart robotic system is Canada's contribution to the United States-led lunar Gateway for the Artemis program, the next major international collaboration in human space exploration, which forms the cornerstone of Exploration, Imagination, Innovation: A New Space Strategy for Canada. The development of Canadarm3 will extend and strengthen Canada's well-established global leadership in space robotics. It will also help grow our economy, create the jobs of tomorrow, and get young Canadians interested in pursuing studies and careers in STEM disciplines.

Canadarm3 will be composed of a next-generation smart robotic arm, a small dexterous arm and a set of specialized tools. Using advanced machine vision, cutting-edge software and advances in artificial intelligence, this highly autonomous system will be able to perform tasks without human intervention.

With four decades of expertise gained from flagship space robotics programs like the original Canadarm, Canadarm2 and Dextre, MDA is at the centre of a dynamic ecosystem of innovative small and medium-sized businesses and research organizations from across the country. Hundreds of Canadian companies are expected to be involved in the development of Canadarm3, working with MDA and research organizations to drive innovation and Canadian excellence in emerging technologies. The development of Canadarm3 will involve the application of the Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy, which will ensure the participation of the broader Canadian supply chain and help motivate investments in key industrial capabilities within Canada's space sector.

In 2019, Canada became the first nation to join the United States-led lunar Gateway, the next major international collaboration in human space exploration following the legacy of the International Space Station. The Gateway is an important part of an ambitious plan by NASA and international partners, including Canada, to send humans deeper into space than ever before.

Source: Canadian Space Agency

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Another art concept of NASA's Gateway orbiting the Moon.
Canadian Space Agency, NASA

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Orion Program Has Hit Another Developmental Milestone...

The three fairing panels that encapsulate Orion's service module during launch are jettisoned from the spacecraft's Structural Test Article during a demonstration at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

Orion’s ‘Twin’ Completes Structural Testing for Artemis I Mission (News Release - June 25)

Before NASA astronauts fly the Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon and back, engineers needed to thoroughly test its ability to withstand the stresses of launch, climb to orbit, the harsh conditions of deep space transit, and return to Earth. NASA designed Orion from the beginning specifically to support astronauts on missions farther from Earth than any other spacecraft built for humans.

In June 2020, engineers completed testing on a duplicate of Orion called the Structural Test Article (STA), needed to verify the spacecraft is ready for Artemis I -- its first uncrewed test flight. NASA and its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built the STA to be structurally identical to Orion’s main spacecraft elements: the crew module, service module and launch abort system.

The STA testing required to qualify Orion’s design began in early 2017 and involved 20 tests, using six different configurations -- from a single element, to the entire full stack -- and various combinations in between. At completion, the testing verified Orion’s structural durability for all flight phases of Artemis I.

“The STA has been an invaluable source for our engineers to prove out the integrity of Orion’s design,” said Stefan Pinsky, Lockheed Martin’s test manager for the Orion structural test article. “Over the course of testing, planning for the configuration and hardware moves of the three large primary Orion elements is a complex process that can sometimes seem like a giant game of Tetris.”

STA tests included loads testing to ensure the spacecraft structures can withstand intense loads at launch and entry; acoustic and modal testing to evaluate how Orion and its components tolerate intense vibrational forces; pyrotechnic shock testing that recreates the powerful pyrotechnic blasts needed for critical separation events during flight, such as module separation events and fairing jettisons; and a lightning test to evaluate potential flight hardware damage if the vehicle was exposed to a lightning strike prior to launch.

At Lockheed Martin in Denver, teams worked round-the-clock for days at a time to prepare the tests, execute, tear down then reconfigure the STA for the next test, culminating in 330 actual days of testing. During some test phases, engineers pushed expected pressures, mechanical loads, vibration and shock conditions up to 40 percent beyond the most severe conditions anticipated during the mission, analyzing data to confirm the spacecraft structures can withstand the extreme environments of space.

While the team was pushing the physical limits of testing with the STA, the actual Orion vehicle for Artemis I recently underwent rigorous testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio to certify it can withstand the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions it will endure during its first mission around the Moon and back. The vehicle is now being readied at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its integration with the Space Launch System rocket prior to its maiden flight.

The STA campaign will continue beyond Artemis I, incorporating structural loads testing on Orion’s launch abort system, and crew module water impact tests to support NASA’s Artemis II mission -- the first flight around the Moon with astronauts. For Artemis III, the mission that will see the first female and next male astronaut land on the surface of the Moon, the STA will be used for testing to include the spacecraft docking system.

“It’s a tremendous achievement for our teams to be able to successfully test this number of STA configurations to validate the structural robustness of the vehicle across the range of conditions that the spacecraft will experience on lunar missions under the Artemis program,” said Howard Hu, NASA’s acting Orion program manager. “These results give us continued confidence that Orion is ready for its first Artemis flight to the Moon next year.”

Source: NASA.Gov

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Photos of the Day: Endeavour at the Space Station...

A snapshot of SpaceX's Endeavour capsule and Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle docked to the International Space Station...as seen by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy during a spacewalk on June 26, 2020. NASA / Chris Cassidy

Just thought I'd share these amazing photos taken by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy as he and fellow crew member Bob Behnken—who joined him aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after a historic launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule last month—conducted a spacewalk that continued the replacement of 48 aging nickel-hydrogen batteries with 24 new lithium-ion units in an effort that began in January of 2017. As you can see in these images, the Crew Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Endeavour by Behnken and fellow Demo-2 astronaut Doug Hurley shortly after launch, is connected to the Harmony node (with Europe's Columbus module visible in the foreground). Below Harmony is Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle that launched to the ISS on May 20.

Another snapshot of SpaceX's Endeavour capsule and Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle docked to the International Space Station...as seen by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy during a spacewalk on June 26, 2020.NASA / Chris Cassidy

Cassidy and Behnken are set to resume the replacement of batteries during another spacewalk next Wednesday. In all, the two astronauts are intended to conduct a total of four Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs) before Behnken and Hurley are supposed to return to Earth aboard Endeavour as early as August 2. If things don't go according to plan in the next spacewalk, then the last two EVAs will be deferred to a future ISS crew so Behnken and Hurley can return home as scheduled.

Another snapshot of SpaceX's Endeavour capsule and Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle docked to the International Space Station...as seen by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy during a spacewalk on June 26, 2020. NASA / Chris Cassidy

Friday, June 26, 2020

The SLS Program Has Hit Another Developmental Milestone...

Water gushes out of the structural article for the Space Launch System's liquid oxygen fuel tank after it is successfully tested to failure at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama...on June 24, 2020.
NASA / David Olive

NASA Completes Artemis Space Launch System Structural Testing Campaign (News Release - June 25)

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.

“The Space Launch System and Marshall test team have done a tremendous job of accomplishing this test program, marking a major milestone not only for the SLS Program but also for the Artemis program,” said John Honeycutt, the SLS Program Manager. “From building the test stands, support equipment and test articles to conducting the tests and analyzing the data, it is remarkable work that will help send astronauts to the Moon.”

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 on the liquid oxygen structural test article met all the program milestones.

The successful completion of SLS structural qualification testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama wraps up the largest test campaign at the center since tests conducted for the Space Shuttle Program, more than 30 years ago. During the test campaign five structural test articles underwent 199 separate test cases and more than 421 gigabytes of data were collected to add to computer models used to design the rocket. The final test marks the achievement of all SLS structural testing requirements prior to the Artemis I mission -- the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

Earlier this year, NASA and engineers from Boeing, the core stage prime contractor, completed 24 baseline tests that simulated actual flight conditions on the liquid oxygen structural test article. For all the tests, thousands of sensors measure stress, pressure and temperature while high-speed cameras and microphones sought to identify any buckling or cracking in the tank's cylindrical wall. The data gathered from this baseline test helped qualify the SLS core stage structures and integrated upper stage for flight.

The Marshall team has been conducting structural qualification testing on the rocket since May 2017 with an integrated test of the upper part of the rocket stacked together -- including the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, the Orion stage adapter and the launch vehicle stage adapter. That was followed by testing of the four largest structures that compose the core stage -- the engine section, the intertank, the liquid hydrogen tank and the liquid oxygen tank. Each of these tests provided additional data to computer models that predict how the structures will perform under the harsh conditions of launch and flight.

"The Marshall test lab team has worked closely with the Space Launch System Program to test the rocket’s structures from the top to bottom," said Ralph Carruth, Marshall's test lab director. "After watching the test stands being built, working alongside SLS and Boeing engineers to establish testing procedures and conducting and gathering results of five structural qualifying tests, we are proud to contribute data shows these structures can withstand the rigors of flight."

With the conclusion of testing, designers now have data that may be helpful in optimizing SLS hardware. SLS will have the power to send astronauts forward to the Moon and ultimately to Mars. Testing the new, complex pieces of hardware is critical to the success not only of the first flight test of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, but also to all future missions.

“This year is a landmark year for core stage testing for the Artemis missions,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS stages manager. “We have successfully completed our core stage major structural tests at Marshall Space Flight Center and are making progress on Green Run testing of the Artemis I core stage at Stennis Space Center that will simulate launch. All these tests are not only valuable for the first Artemis mission but also validates the new integrated design of the SLS core stage structure, propulsion and avionics systems and ensures its readiness for future flights.”

Teams at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi are making progress on Green Run testing of the assembled SLS core stage for the Artemis I mission. At NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Boeing, the core stage prime contractor, has manufactured all the main core stage structures for the Artemis II mission and started work on Artemis III structures. The 212-foot-tall core stage is the largest, most complex rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages that powered the Apollo missions to the Moon. Aerojet Rocketdyne has assembled engines for the Artemis II mission and is in the process of assembling Artemis III engines.

Northrop Grumman recently delivered booster segments to the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where they are being prepared for launch. All 10 of the segments for the second Artemis mission are cast, and Northrop Grumman is now working on the boosters for Artemis III. With the arrival of the boosters to Kennedy, the only remaining pieces of hardware for the Artemis I flight test to be delivered are the launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the rocket to the Orion spacecraft and will arrive this summer, and the SLS core stage, which will be transported to Kennedy by barge after the Green Run hot fire test at Stennis later this year.

The SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Human Landing System are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration. It’s part of America’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which astronauts will explore the Moon and experience gained there to enable humanity’s next giant leap, sending humans to Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov

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