NASA one step closer to taking humans to Mars, conducts second successful SLS booster test
The Space Launch System (SLS), arguably the world’s most powerful NASA’s rocket that the space agency hopes will one day carry humans to Mars, has given positive results in the second test.
The second test was conducted on June 28 at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah, where the rocket survived extreme temperatures of nearly 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit and successfully qualified the test.
As per NASA report, the smoke has well cleared from that test, but critical data continues to pour in, which will help NASA qualify the booster for the first, uncrewed flight of SLS with the Orion spacecraft in 2018 — a key milestone on the agency’s journey to Mars.
“Preliminary analysis from the test shows the instrumentation performed extremely well and gathered the critical data needed to show that we met our test objectives,” said Mat Bevill, deputy chief engineer for the SLS Boosters Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the SLS program is managed for the agency.
During the test, 82 qualification test objectives were measured through more than 530 instrumentation channels on the booster at a cold motor conditioning target of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the colder end of its accepted propellant temperature range.
The first test was successfully done in March 2015. This is the fifth, full-scale motor test overall for the booster, which included three development tests.
The first qualification ground test demonstrated acceptable performance of the booster design at 90 degrees Fahrenheit — the highest end of the booster’s accepted propellant temperature range.
“We still have many months to go to analyze all the data from the second test, as it’s a very detailed process,” Bevill further said.
That process includes disassembling the 154-foot-long booster and getting a thorough look at every part of it. The detailed inspection, including the post-test measurements, will support verification that the booster design meets SLS requirements and performed as expected on test day.
For now, engineers also will compare data from the previous four ground tests.Once all the analysis are done,with few more steps the booster will be ready for launch.
In 2015, the SLS Program completed its critical design review – a first in almost 40 years for a NASA human-rated rocket.
“This is a critical and exciting time for our teams as we prepare the boosters for flight and move forward on the journey to Mars,” said Alex Priskos, manager of the SLS Boosters Office.
“Booster flight hardware for our first flight, Exploration Mission-1, is in full production, with four segments being cast and a fifth going to casting later this month at Orbital ATK. We also have aft skirt refurbishment work taking place at Kennedy Space Center, where the boosters will be stacked ahead of the flight.” Orbital ATK, headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, is prime contractor for the SLS boosters.
NASA reported, that the starting SLS configuration will have a minimum 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capability and the next planned upgrade of SLS will use a powerful exploration upper stage for more ambitious missions with a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity.