It’s official – NASA will subject the SLS missile to another hot fire test

It's official - NASA will subject the SLS missile to another hot fire test
Zoom in / The SLS primary stage is at NASA’s Stennis Space Center after the Green Run Test launches January 16, 2021.

Trevor Mahlman

After completing a review of the data gathered from the hot-fire test of the Space Launch System missile in mid-January, NASA decided that it needed to test the large vehicle again. The all-in-one engine is scheduled to launch as early as the fourth week of February.

during Test shooting on January 16thWhen NASA intended to run the rocket’s four main engines for up to eight minutes, the test was aborted after just 67.2 seconds. NASA said engine launch was halted due to severe restrictions on hydraulic pressure in the thrust vector control mechanism used to pivot or steer the motors.

In the days following the test launch in mid-January, officials from NASA and Boeing were apprehensive about whether they would need to test the missile a second time. While it would be helpful to have additional data, they said, there were concerns about the laying of the base stage, with the four main space shuttle engines and liquid oxygen fuel tanks and hydrogen fuel, through the stress of repeated tests. (The SLS missile is expendable, so it is designed to be launched only once.)

According to the agency, the original fire test completed 15 of the 23 targets. Four other targets got most of the required data, while three had partial data and one had no data. This last test was an examination of how the pressure of a liquid oxygen tank would respond when liquid oxygen was largely used and the tank emptied. Because the test goals were not met, engineers inside the agency pushed NASA and Boeing’s leadership to conduct a second test to reduce the risk of failure during launch.

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On Friday, NASA announced this officially. “After evaluating data from the first hot fire and the previous seven Green Run tests, NASA and the main contractor for the base stage Boeing decided that a second, longer fire test should be performed and would pose little risk to the Artemis I base stage while providing data value to help certify the base stage of the flight.” The space He said in a blog post.

NASA said running the motors for four minutes during this second test should provide enough data to provide confidence in the performance of the base stage, but the main engines will run for up to eight minutes if all goes well.

After the second fire test – assuming NASA and Boeing have the required data – it will take about a month to revamp the base stage and its engines. The spacecraft will then be loaded onto a barge, shipped across the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic Ocean, and delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is not likely to happen now until late March or April.

NASA says in its blog that once it reaches Florida, the base stage of the SLS will be assembled with its solid rocket boosters and mated with the Orion spacecraft in preparation for its first launch “later this year. However, given that the launch date is in 2021 was expected.” To ship the base stage from the Stennis Space Center in January, the launch of the SLS missile in 2021 now appears unlikely.

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