Watch NASA test-fire the world’s most powerful rocket stage on Thursday – a critical step towards the next moon mission

space launch system sls hot fire nasa green run
The core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System fires its engines for a hot fire test on January 16, 2021, at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

NASA is building the world’s most powerful rocket stage in order to bring a new generation of astronauts to the moon. On Thursday, the agency plans to fire the engines.

The rocket, called Space Launch System (SLS), is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) tall. The system is a piece of NASA’s larger Artemis program, a roughly $30 billion effort to put people on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. NASA has spent about $18 billion developing the rocket.

The 212-foot-tall core stage – the system’s biggest piece and its structural backbone – is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It’s currently clamped into a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, ready for what’s known as a “hot fire” test on Thursday afternoon.

That means NASA will fire the engines continuously for about eight minutes – the length of time required to deliver an upper-stage rocket and spaceship into orbit. If the engines pass this test, the core stage will be ready to join the rest of the rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2021
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place on January 22, 2020.

This hot fire is the eighth and final step in NASA’s Green Run program, which is designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch – an uncrewed test flight around the moon called Artemis 1. If the hot fire goes as planned, SLS could launch in November.

The eventual goal is to ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s.

sls space launch system nasa
An artist’s rendering of the Space Launch System rocket lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Our core-stage Green Run is the most comprehensive test that we’re undertaking to make sure that SLS can safely launch the Artemis missions to the moon,” John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager, said in a February press conference. “This is a generational opportunity to learn as much as we can about the rocket while we’ve got it in this test configuration before we get to fly.”

Watch NASA’s rocket test-fire live

NASA TV will begin a live broadcast of the test at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday. That’s the beginning of the two-hour window NASA has carved out for the hot fire. Watch the livestream here:

To prepare for the test, six barges will transport 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant to the test site early on Thursday. Three of the barges will carry liquid hydrogen, while the other three carry liquid oxygen. The core stage has one fuel tank for each. Once NASA gives the “go,” the barges will load the propellant into those tanks, preparing the rocket stage for fire.

The last hot fire attempt cut itself short

Boeing is NASA’s lead contractor for the core stage, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its four RS-25 engines, which were also used on NASA’s fleet of space shuttles.

NASA previously attempted this same hot-fire test in January, but the engines suddenly shut down just one minute in.

NASA sls engine shutdown space launch system hot fire
An SLS engine burns propellant (left), then abruptly shuts down (right) during a hot fire test on January 16, 2021.

It turned out that a flight computer had automatically aborted the test because a system controlling the engines’ movements had exceeded limits that NASA set ahead of the hot fire. The limits were intentionally conservative, NASA said, because the agency doesn’t want to push the rocket so hard that it gets damaged during testing.

But in the two months since, NASA has adjusted the test parameters to be less conservative. The SLS team determined that it can expand the limits without much additional risk to the hardware, Honeycutt said. If the system had exceeded the prior limits during an actual launch, NASA said, the rocket would have continued to fly.

The team has also repaired a liquid-oxygen valve that was not opening properly, an issue they discovered while preparing for the upcoming hot fire.

This time, SLS program managers are hoping the engines will fire for at least four minutes. Though the full test should be eight minutes, four would give NASA enough data to verify that the core stage is safe for flight.

If anything goes wrong, NASA will have to redo the hot fire a third time, which could delay the first mission and throw a wrench into the ambitious timeline of the Artemis program overall. The program aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024.

“We’re still on path to have an opportunity to launch this year, but we recognize also that there are things that can come up, like weather and COVID and some first-time operations,” Tom Whitmeyer, who leads the NASA program that develops new exploration systems like SLS and Orion, said in the press conference. “So the plan is to launch this year, but we’ll continue to provide progress as we go through the year and we’ll certainly let you know how we’re doing.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A critical test of NASA’s moon rocket ended abruptly on Saturday, possibly dashing hopes of launching in 2021

NASA sls engine shutdown space launch system hot fire
An SLS engine burns propellant (left), then abruptly shuts down (right) during a hot fire test on January 16, 2021.

NASA’s mega-sized moon rocket hit a snag during a critical test on Saturday, and the error could further delay the agency’s effort to send astronauts back to the moon.

The rocket, called Space Launch System (SLS), is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) and ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s. The system is an essential piece of a larger program called Artemis, a roughly $30 billion effort to put boots back on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. NASA has spent about $18 billion developing the rocket.

The SLS core stage – the system’s largest piece and its structural backbone – was assembled and heavily strapped down at Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on Saturday for a critical “hot fire” test. For the first time, the rocket was ready to simultaneously fire its four powerful RS-25 engines as it would for launch.

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2021
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place at test stand B-2 on January 22, 2020.

The core stage is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It hosts five mains sections, including a 537,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank for liquid hydrogen, a 196,000-gallon (742,000-liter) tank for liquid oxygen, four RS-25 engines, avionics computers, and other subsystems. Boeing is the lead contractor for the stage, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its RS-25 engines, which used to help propel NASA’s fleet of space shuttles.

The fuel tanks were filled with 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant on Saturday, and the engines roared to life at about 5:27 p.m. EST.

“It was like an earthquake,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters in a press conference after the test. “It was a magnificent moment. And it just brought joy that after all this time, now we’ve got a rocket. The only rocket on the face of the planet capable of taking humans to the moon was firing all four RS-25 engines at the same time.”

The engines were supposed to fire continuously for eight minutes. But just one minute into the test, they suddenly shut down.

The whole thing was captured on NASA’s live broadcast:

Following publication of this story, which stated there was a problem with one of the engines, Ryan McKibben, the deputy chief of mechanical operations at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, contacted Insider with new details about the anomaly.

“I can assure you as the test conductor that we did not end the test early due to our engines,” McKibben said. “We had a redundant sensor go out on an engine. But the engine was and is still in great shape after the test. The cutoff was due to other reasons.”

This particular rocket stage is the one that’s set to fly Artemis 1 – an uncrewed test flight around the moon. NASA doesn’t want to push the rocket so hard as to damage it during testing, so it set conservative limits on the hardware’s operations for Saturday’s hot fire.

In a blog post on Tuesday, NASA said that its preliminary investigation into the hot fire had revealed that these strict limits may have been the source of the shutdown.

‘No, this is not a failure’

During the hot fire, the engines were “gimbaling,” or pivoting, to imitate how they would move to direct the rocket’s thrust during flight. The systems that control these movements are powered by Core Stage Auxiliary Power Units (CAPUs).

NASA sls space launch system hot fire engines
Four RS-25 engines fire during the SLS hot fire test on January 16, 2021.

When the hydraulic system on the CAPU for Engine 2 exceeded NASA’s conservative limits, the flight computers automatically shut down the entire test.

“If this scenario occurred during a flight, the rocket would have continued to fly using the remaining CAPUs to power the thrust vector control systems for the engines,” NASA said in its post.

Two other issues arose during the hot fire, though they weren’t significant enough to shut down the operation. Engine 4 lost a redundant sensor, leading it to register a “major component failure” about 1.5 seconds after firing began. Controllers also saw a flash next to the thermal-protection blanket covering that engine, though the blog post didn’t reveal any findings on what may have caused it.

At the time of shutdown, “we did still have four good engines up and running at 109%,” John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said in the press conference.

“The amount of progress that we’ve made here today is remarkable. And no, this is not a failure. This is a test. And we tested today in a way that is meaningful, where we’re going to learn and we’re going to make adjustments and we’re going to fly to the moon,” Bridenstine said.

NASA may need to re-do the hot fire test

Saturday’s hot fire was supposed to be the eighth and final step in NASA’s “Green Run,” a program designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch for Artemis 1, which currently scheduled for November 2021.

space launch system
An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Space Launch System rocketing toward low-Earth orbit.

But that timeline may be unrealistic now. If the hot fire went well, NASA was planning to ship the rocket to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in February. There, workers would stack all the segments of the two boosters required for sending Artemis 1 around the moon.

It’s unclear how long it will take NASA to correct the engine error and get the core stage to Florida now.

“It depends what the anomaly was and how challenging it’s going to be to fix it. And we’ve got a lot to learn to figure that out,” Bridenstine said. “It very well could be that it’s something that’s easily fixable and we could feel confident going down to the Cape and staying on schedule. It’s also true that we could find a challenge that’s going to take more time.”

space launch system sls hot fire nasa green run
The SLS core stage fires its engines for the hot fire test on January 16, 2021.

The agency may have to redo the hot fire test. The SLS team wanted to get to at least 250 seconds of the engines firing together to have high confidence in the vehicle. Saturday’s test lasted for just 67 seconds.

“My advice would be to retest and get complete data,” Wayne Hale, a retired NASA Space-Shuttle flight director, said on Twitter after NASA’s updates from its preliminary investigation. “May be a couple of weeks but schedule is secondary.”

It would take at least four or five days to prepare the Stennis Space Center facilities for another test. If NASA needs to swap the current engines for new ones, workers can do it on-site at the Stennis Space Center. Honeycutt estimated it would take about seven to 10 days to do that.

“This is why we test,” Bridenstine said. “Before we put American astronauts on American rockets, that’s when we need it to be perfect.”

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published at 8:17 p.m. EST on January 16, 2021.

Dave Mosher contributed reporting.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A critical test of NASA’s moon rocket ended abruptly due to an engine problem, possibly ending hopes of launching in 2021

NASA sls engine shutdown space launch system hot fire
An SLS engine burns propellant (left), then abruptly shuts down (right) during a hot fire test on January 16, 2021.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

NASA’s mega-sized moon rocket encountered an engine issue during a critical test on Saturday. The error could delay the rocket’s first launch to 2022.

The rocket, called Space Launch System, is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) and ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s. The system is an essential piece of a larger program called Artemis, a roughly $30 billion effort to put boots back on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. NASA has spent about $18 billion developing the rocket.

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2021
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place at test stand B-2 on January 22, 2020.

The rocket’s core stage – the system’s largest piece and its structural backbone – was assembled and heavily strapped down at Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on Saturday for a critical “hot fire” test. For the first time, the rocket was ready to simultaneously fire its four powerful RS-25 engines as it would for launch.

The fuel tanks were filled with 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant – liquid oxygen and hydrogen. The engines, which used to help propel NASA’s fleet of space shuttles, ignited at about 5:27 p.m. EST for what was supposed to be an eight-minute test.

But about one minute and 15 seconds later, the engines abruptly shut down. Shortly before the shut-down, a test conductor noted that the fourth engine was experiencing an MCF, or “major component failure.”

The whole thing was captured on NASA’s live broadcast:

The hot fire was supposed to be the eighth and final step in NASA’s “Green Run,” a program designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch, called Artemis 1 – an uncrewed test flight currently scheduled for November 2021.

But that timeline may be unrealistic now. NASA was planning to ship the rocket to Kennedy Space Center in Florida in February, where workers would stack all the segments of the two boosters required for sending Artemis 1 around the moon.

It’s unclear how long it will take NASA to correct the engine error and get the core stage to Florida now. The agency may have to redo the hot fire test.

The core stage is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It hosts five mains sections, including a 537,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank for liquid hydrogen, a 196,000-gallon (742,000-liter) tank for liquid oxygen, four RS-25 engines, avionics computers, and other subsystems.

Boeing is the core stage’s lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its RS-25 engines.

Dave Mosher contributed reporting.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch video of NASA test-firing the world’s most powerful rocket stage

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2020
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place at test stand B-2 on January 22, 2020.

  • NASA plans to test-fire the core stage of its Space Launch System on Saturday around 4 p.m. EST.
  • The core stage will burn through more than 700,000 gallons of liquid propellant over eight minutes while strapped to a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
  • NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the firing — the final test in the agency’s “Green Run” series — starting at 3:20 p.m. EST.
  • The test is a crucial step toward the first launch of SLS, which is currently scheduled for November 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Update (5:40 p.m. EST): The SLS engines shut down after firing for two minutes, apparently due to a “major component failure” on the fourth engine.

NASA plans to fire up the world’s most powerful rocket stage on Saturday in a vital test for its forthcoming mega-size moon rocket, and you can watch live video of the action below.

The final rocket, called Space Launch System, is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) and ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s. The system is an essential piece of a larger program called Artemis, a roughly $30 billion effort to put boots back on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

NASA expects to hot-fire the 212-foot (65-meter) core stage of SLS – the system’s largest piece and its structural backbone – at Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, around 4 p.m. EST on Saturday. Boeing is the core stage’s lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its four powerful RS-25 engines, which used to help propel NASA’s fleet of space shuttles.

The core stage’s firing is the eighth and final step in NASA’s “Green Run,” a program designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch, called Artemis 1 – an uncrewed test flight currently scheduled for November 2021.

space launch system
An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Space Launch System rocketing toward low-Earth orbit.

The core stage is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It hosts five mains sections, including a 537,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank for liquid hydrogen, a 196,000-gallon (742,000-liter) tank for liquid oxygen, four RS-25 engines, avionics computers, and other subsystems.

NASA gave a “go” on Saturday morning to fuel the core stage with 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant. It took several hours to transfer the hydrogen and oxygen stored nearby in six barges, outgoing NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet.

The rocket stage is vertical on the B-2 Test Stand in Stennis but is heavily strapped down. If all four engines perform normally, they’ll produce about 1.6 million pounds of thrust for 485 seconds, or just over eight minutes – the length of time required to deliver an upper-stage rocket and Orion spaceship into orbit.

NASA’s last major test-firing of an SLS component happened on September 2, when Northrop Grumman successfully ignited a 176-foot-tall (54-meter) side booster. Two of the solid-fuel boosters will strap to the core stage and provide about 75% of the force required to heave SLS off its launch pad and toward space during the first two minutes of flight.

If the core stage’s hot fire goes well, NASA will ship the rocket to Kennedy Space Center in Florida in February. By that time, workers are expected to have stacked all the segments of two boosters required for sending Artemis 1 around the moon.

“Our team is locked in and focused on delivering the rocket for a 2021 launch,” John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday. “This powerful rocket is going to put us in a position to be ready to support the agency and the country’s deep-space mission to the moon and beyond.”

Watch live video of the core stage’s hot fire

NASA is giving itself two hours to conduct the core stage’s liquid-fuel test on Saturday, which can begin as soon as 4 p.m. ET.

NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the test starting at 3:20 p.m. ET, which you can watch via the embedded YouTube player below.

This story has been updated. It was originally published at 12:47 p.m. EST on January 16, 2021.

Do you have a story or inside information to share about the space industry? Email Dave Mosher, send him a Twitter direct message, or consider more secure communication options listed here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch live video of NASA test-firing the world’s most powerful rocket stage for 8 minutes

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2020
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place at test stand B-2 on January 22, 2020.

  • NASA plans to test-fire the core stage of its Space Launch System on Saturday around 5 p.m. EST.
  • The core stage will burn through more than 700,000 gallons of liquid propellant over eight minutes while strapped to a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
  • NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the firing — the final test in the agency’s “Green Run” series — starting at 4:20 p.m. EST.
  • The test is a crucial step toward a the first launch of SLS, which is currently scheduled for November 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

NASA plans to fire up the world’s most powerful rocket stage on Saturday in a vital test for its forthcoming mega-size moon rocket, and you can watch live video of the action below.

The final rocket, called Space Launch System, is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) and ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s. The system is an essential piece of a larger program called Artemis, a roughly $30 billion effort to put boots back on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

NASA expects to hot-fire the 212-foot (65-meter) core stage of SLS – the system’s largest piece and its structural backbone – at Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, around 5 p.m. EST on Saturday. Boeing is the core stage’s lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its four powerful RS-25 engines, which used to help propel NASA’s fleet of space shuttles.

The core stage’s firing is the eighth and final step in NASA’s “Green Run,” a program designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch, called Artemis 1 – an uncrewed test flight currently scheduled for November 2021.

space launch system
An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Space Launch System rocketing toward low-Earth orbit.

The core stage is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It hosts five mains sections, including a 537,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank for liquid hydrogen, a 196,000-gallon (742,000-liter) tank for liquid oxygen, four RS-25 engines, avionics computers, and other subsystems.

NASA gave a “go” on Saturday morning to fuel the core stage with 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant. It took several hours to transfer the hydrogen and oxygen stored nearby in six barges, outgoing NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet.

The rocket stage is vertical on the B-2 Test Stand in Stennis but is heavily strapped down. If all four engines perform normally, they’ll produce about 1.6 million pounds of thrust for 485 seconds, or just over eight minutes – the length of time required to deliver an upper-stage rocket and Orion spaceship into orbit.

NASA’s last major test-firing of an SLS component happened on September 2, when Northrop Grumman successfully ignited a 176-foot-tall (54-meter) side booster. Two of the solid-fuel boosters will strap to the core stage and provide about 75% of the force required to heave SLS off its launch pad and toward space during the first two minutes of flight.

If the core stage’s hot fire goes well, NASA will ship the rocket to Kennedy Space Center in Florida in February. By that time, workers are expected to have stacked all the segments of two boosters required for sending Artemis 1 around the moon.

“Our team is locked in and focused on delivering the rocket for a 2021 launch,” John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday. “This powerful rocket is going to put us in a position to be ready to support the agency and the country’s deep-space mission to the moon and beyond.”

Watch live video of the core stage’s hot fire

NASA is giving itself two hours to conduct the core stage’s liquid-fuel test on Saturday, which can begin as soon as 5 p.m. ET.

NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the test starting at 4:20 p.m. ET, which you can watch via the embedded YouTube player below.

Do you have a story or inside information to share about the space industry? Email Dave Mosher, send him a Twitter direct message, or consider more secure communication options listed here.

Read the original article on Business Insider