Although the coronavirus pandemic has slowed testing of NASA’s space launch system – a rocket more powerful than the Saturn V that propelled the first astronauts to the moon – the months-long process is finally resuming at the Stennis Space Center in the United States. agency in Mississippi. Boeing, the company that NASA hired to lead the construction of the rocket, is now in a basic eight-step test process called the Green Race. This will end with a hot shot test, where the rocket will be attached, but ignite its engines and endure every step of a launch as if it really happens. Originally scheduled to take place in early to mid-November 2020, these latest tests are now expected to take place within the next three to six weeks, according to NASA. He hopes to meet this test target, keeping his schedule on track for the rocket launch on the Artemis 1 lunar mission in mid-late 2021.
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Clyde Sellers, a security specialist at the NASA hub, told EarthSky:
It is extremely rewarding to watch. This is the first time this test has been performed and for a new original rocket, the most powerful rocket ever built.
Although the green racing series began with a modal test – a sort of vibration test – carried out in January 2020, the process was significantly slowed down by the coronavirus that swept the world. Agency management halted work on site in Stennis after the pandemic hit the region in March. The center began to slowly reopen in mid-May, and the green running team completed its second test on the center stage (the orange “body” of the rocket) in late June.
This test ensured that the software and other electrical interfaces involved in the rocket and test bench were functioning properly.
The rocket has since undergone and passed the next four stages of the Green Race Series:
– Test 3, in which the engineers inspected all the safety systems that stopped operations during the tests. During this test, they simulated potential problems.
– Test 4, the first test of each of the main components of the propulsion system that connect to the engines. The command and control operations were checked, and the central stage was checked for fluid or gas leaks.
– Test 5, in which the engineers made sure that the thrust vector control system could move all four engines and checked all associated hydraulic systems.
– Test 6, which simulates the countdown to launch, including step-by-step refueling procedures. The center stage avionics were energized and the thruster loading and pressurization was simulated. The test team practiced and validated the countdown timeline and sequence of events.
The last two tests scheduled for about next month – Test 7 and Test 8 – will be a “wet dress rehearsal” which will see the rocket stage loaded with fuel and the full hot shot test to ensure that the vehicle is really ready for launch. . It’s an intense procedure, but crucial for the engineers to feel confident the vehicle is safe.
After the hot fire test, engineers will refurbish the main stage and configure it for its trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where more tests await the main phase. But ultimately, if all goes well, the next time the RS-25 engines fire it will be for the first unmanned NASA Artemis 1 mission – the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars – and perhaps, one day, deep space.
The center stage will then be assembled with the other parts of the rocket and the Orion spacecraft, the crew module designed to transport humans into space.
Drawing on more than half a century of research and development, the Orion module plans to be flexible enough to transport humans to a variety of destinations beyond our own moon. The shutdown system, which will give the crew the ability to escape in an emergency on the launch pad, was successfully tested at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 2010. A series of simulations Launch and Landing Center at NASA’s Hydro Impact Basin tested how the module will behave when splashing into the ocean at the end of its mission.
Orion’s testing ended in 2018 after a series of parachute drops, and he is expected to fly when Artemis first launches.
Unlike previous human launch systems, SLS is designed to grow and evolve over time, with system flexibility that allows engineers to use a design today but adapt it later for future missions. The sellers added:
SLS will advance our understanding of our solar system and the capabilities of humanity.
Bottom line: Although the coronavirus pandemic has slowed testing of NASA’s space launch system – a rocket more powerful than the Saturn V moon rocket – the months-long process is finally resuming at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi . Green testing will culminate with a hot fire test scheduled for the next few weeks, a schedule according to NASA keeps it on track for its first launch of the Artemis 1 lunar mission by the end of 2021.
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