After three attempts to complete a critical test to operate the Space Launch System rocket, NASA decided to take a break.
space agency saturday night Announce plans to roll off the large SLS rocket from the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center to the Vehicle Assembly Building in the coming days. This represents an important step backwards for the program, which has been trying since April 1 to complete a “rehearsal” test, with the missile refueling and operating within 10 seconds of launch.
The decision comes after three attempts in the past two weeks. Any attempt to refuel was thwarted by one or more technical problems with the missile, moving launch tower, or ground systems providing the fuel and gases. During the last attempt, Thursday, April 14, NASA successfully loaded 49 percent of the initial stage liquid oxygen fuel tank and 5 percent of the liquid hydrogen tank.
While this is an advance, it did not include the more dynamic part of the test, which involves fully refueling and depressing the rocket; Earth and computer systems are turned off in the last countdown as each variable is closely monitored. NASA had hoped to complete this preliminary test to identify kinks in the complex launch system so that when the rocket is launched for its actual launch later this year, the countdown will continue fairly smoothly.
NASA said its contractors, as well as its agency, will use the coming weeks to address issues raised during tank testing as the SLS rocket returns to the large vehicle assembly building. For example, Air Liquide, a supplier of gaseous nitrogen systems, will upgrade its capabilities. NASA will also replace a faulty check valve on the rocket’s upper stage, as well as fix a leak in the portable launch tower’s “secret service mast,” the 10-foot-high structure that supplies the rocket’s bow and electrical lines to the road.
The space agency’s announcement did not include any information on the effects of the scheme. It seems likely that it will take about a week to prepare and return the SLS missile to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Work on the missile at that location is likely to take most of May.
NASA will then have to make some tough decisions. You can choose to roll the rocket and the moving launch tower on the platform a second time and try to complete the wet test exercise. Then, following normal procedure, NASA will propel the rocket into its assembly building to arm the flight safety system, before rolling onto the launch pad a third time for takeoff. It appears that the closest possible launch of the SLS in such a scenario will be in August, but the launch is likely to be in the fall.
Another option that NASA could pursue is to start testing the wetsuits and complete them on the platform, then launch them in a few days if that works. In such a scenario, NASA would likely launch the SLS rocket in June or July. However, this can be risky due to the flight safety system.
During a conference call on Friday, Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson confirmed that there is a 20-day timeline once the flight safety system is armed. (This is a safety mechanism used by all orbital missiles that destroy the booster if it goes off course.) After the system is activated, it takes about a week to make final preparations at the Vehicle Assembly Building and a week to launch until the launch pad and make preparations there. That would leave just a week to test refueling, recycle goods and possibly one or two shooting attempts before the 20-day deadline closes.
In other words, this means that the wet garment test should be virtually flawless, and then the launch attempt should also be flawless. It could also mean that summer weather in Florida – when there are plenty of thunderstorms and other extreme conditions – has to cooperate.
Finally, NASA engineers must balance a myriad of other factors, such as wear and tear on the rocket, side casings that appear from the outside, as well as seemingly infinite age considerations with the hardware. For example, agency officials are closely monitoring the state of the fuel in solid rocket boosters, which, among other things, have been piling up for about 16 months.
However, NASA appears confident that it will weather that painful downturn from the SLS rocket: a program now 11 years old, in which NASA has invested more than $30 billion in rockets and ground systems now being tested.
“I have no doubts that we will complete this test campaign, we will listen to the hardware and the data will lead us to the next step,” Blackwill Thompson said Friday. And we’re going to take the right steps, and we’re going to launch this car. I don’t know exactly what this date will be, but I have no doubts that we will finish our test drive, and we will be ready to fly.”