Kennedy’s Modernized Spaceport Passes Key Review Supporting SLS/Orion Launches

This artist concept depicts the Space Launch System rocket rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built and will launch the agency’s Orion spacecraft into a new era of exploration to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.  Credits: NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Modernization of NASA’s launch infrastructure facilities at the Kennedy Space Center supporting the new SLS/Orion architecture required to send astronauts on a Journey to Mars in the 2030s, has passed a comprehensive series of key hardware reviews, NASA announced, paving the path towards full scale development and the inaugural liftoff by late 2018.

The facilities and ground support systems that will process NASA’s mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and next generation Orion manned deep space capsule at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida successfully completed a painstaking review of the plans by top agency managers and an independent team of aerospace experts.

SLS will be the most powerful rocket the world has ever seen. It will propel astronauts in the Orion capsule on deep space missions, first back to the Moon by around 2021, then to an asteroid around 2025 and then beyond to the Red Planet in the 2030s – NASA’s overriding and agency wide goal.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program (GSDO) group within NASA is responsible for processing SLS and Orion.

“Over the course of a few months, engineers and experts across the agency reviewed hundreds of documents as part of a comprehensive assessment” said NASA.

Among the GSDO ground support facilities evaluated in the launch infrastructure review are the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where the rocket components are stacked, the mobile launcher used to roll out SLS/Orion to Launch Pad 39B atop a modified crawler transporter and the Multi-Payload Processing Facility that will fuel the Orion spacecraft with propellants prior to stacking atop the rocket.

In December, GSDO completed a critical design review (CDR) of the facilities and ground support systems plans.

Then in January, a Standing Review Board comprising a team of aerospace experts completed an independent assessment of program readiness.

The Standing Review Board “confirmed the program is on track to complete the engineering design and development process on budget and on schedule.”

“NASA is developing and modernizing the ground systems at Kennedy to safely integrate Orion with SLS, move the vehicle to the pad, and successfully launch it into space,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, in a statement.

“Modernizing the ground systems for our journey to Mars also ensures long-term sustainability and affordability to meet future needs of the multi-use spaceport.”

Fabrication, installation and testing of Kennedy’s ground systems can now proceed.

“The team is working hard and we are making remarkable progress transforming our facilities,” said Mike Bolger, GSDO Program Manager. “As we are preparing for NASA’s journey to Mars, the outstanding team at the Kennedy Space Center is ensuring that we will be ready to receive SLS and Orion flight hardware and process the vehicle for the first flight in 2018.”

The maiden test flight of the SLS/Orion is targeted for no later than November 2018 and will be configured in its initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) version with a liftoff thrust of 8.4 million pounds.

Meanwhile the welded skeletal backbone for the Orion EM-1 mission recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 1 for outfitting with all the systems and subsystems necessary for flight.

SLS-1 will boost the unmanned Orion EM-1 capsule from KSC launch pad 39B on an approximately three week long test flight beyond the Moon and back.

NASA plans to gradually upgrade the SLS to achieve an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons), enabling the more distant missions even farther into our solar system.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post Kennedy’s Modernized Spaceport Passes Key Review Supporting SLS/Orion Launches appeared first on Universe Today.

NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon

NASA engineers conduct a successful test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System vehicle.  Credits: NASA/SSC

NASA engineers have successfully test fired the first flight engine destined to power the agency’s mammoth new SLS rocket that will launch American astronauts back to the Moon and deep space for the first time in nearly five decades.

The flight proven RS-25 powerplant engine previously flew as one of three main engines that successfully rocketed NASA’s space shuttle orbiters to space during the three decade long Space Shuttle era that ended in 2011.

On March 10, NASA engineers conducted a successful 500 second long test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle. It also simultaneously marks a major milestone towards implementing the agency’s vision of sending humans on future deep-space missions to destinations including the Moon, an asteroid and a ‘Journey to Mars.’

“What a great moment for NASA and Stennis,” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in a statement.

“We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction.”

This NASA video shows the full duration hot-fire test:

https://youtu.be/njb9Z2jX2fA

Video caption: NASA engineers at Stennis Space Center tested RS-25 engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand on March 10, 2016. This was the first flight engine for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), to be tested at Stennis. Credit: NASA

The SLS is the most powerful rocket the world has ever seen and will loft astronauts in the Orion capsule on missions back to the Moon by around 2021, to an asteroid around 2025 and then beyond on a ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s – NASA’s overriding and agency wide goal. The first unmanned SLS test flight is slated for late 2018.

Thursdays hot fire test follows a lengthy series of engine tests with development versions of the RS-25 at Stennis last year that were used to begin proving out the modifications enabling NASA to upgrade the engines for use in the SLS.

The primary goal of the development tests was “to validate the capabilities of a new controller – or, “brain” – for the engine and to verify the different operating conditions needed for the SLS vehicle,” according to NASA officials.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for the RS-25 engine work and originally built them during the shuttle era.

The remaining cache of 16 heritage RS-25 engines are being recycled from their previous use as reusable space shuttle main engines (SSMEs). They are now being refurbished, upgraded and tested by NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne to power the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket now under full development.

A cluster of four RS-25 engines will power the SLS core stage. They will fire at 109 percent thrust level for some eight and a half minutes while generating a combined two million pounds of thrust.

Each of the RS-25’s engines generates some 500,000 pounds of thrust. They are fueled by cryogenic liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). For SLS they will be operating at 109% of power, compared to a routine usage of 104.5% during the shuttle era. They measure 14 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter.

They have to withstand and survive temperature extremes ranging from -423 degrees F to more than 6000 degrees F.

The workhorse engines are among the most proven in the world, says NASA, having powered 135 space shuttle missions from 1981 to 2011.

“Not only does this test mark an important step towards proving our existing design for SLS’s first flight,” said Steve Wofford, engines manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the SLS Program is managed for the agency, “but it’s also a great feeling that this engine that has carried so many astronauts into space before is being prepared to take astronauts to space once again on SLS’s first crewed flight.”

The next step is to continue hot fire development tests with all the upgrades and qualify all the RS-25 flight engines for SLS launches.

The maiden test flight of the SLS is targeted for no later than November 2018 and will be configured in its initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) version with a liftoff thrust of 8.4 million pounds.

SLS-1 will boost the unmanned Orion EM-1 capsule on an approximately three week long test flight beyond the Moon and back.

I was on hand when the welded skeleton of Orion EM-1 recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 1 for outfitting with all the systems and subsystems necessary for flight.

NASA plans to gradually upgrade the SLS to achieve an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons), enabling the more distant missions even farther into our solar system.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

The post NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon appeared first on Universe Today.

NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon

NASA engineers conduct a successful test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System vehicle.  Credits: NASA/SSC

NASA engineers have successfully test fired the first flight engine destined to power the agency’s mammoth new SLS rocket that will launch American astronauts back to the Moon and deep space for the first time in nearly five decades.

The flight proven RS-25 powerplant engine previously flew as one of three main engines that successfully rocketed NASA’s space shuttle orbiters to space during the three decade long Space Shuttle era that ended in 2011.

On March 10, NASA engineers conducted a successful 500 second long test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle. It also simultaneously marks a major milestone towards implementing the agency’s vision of sending humans on future deep-space missions to destinations including the Moon, an asteroid and a ‘Journey to Mars.’

“What a great moment for NASA and Stennis,” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in a statement.

“We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction.”

This NASA video shows the full duration hot-fire test:

https://youtu.be/njb9Z2jX2fA

Video caption: NASA engineers at Stennis Space Center tested RS-25 engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand on March 10, 2016. This was the first flight engine for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), to be tested at Stennis. Credit: NASA

The SLS is the most powerful rocket the world has ever seen and will loft astronauts in the Orion capsule on missions back to the Moon by around 2021, to an asteroid around 2025 and then beyond on a ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s – NASA’s overriding and agency wide goal. The first unmanned SLS test flight is slated for late 2018.

Thursdays hot fire test follows a lengthy series of engine tests with development versions of the RS-25 at Stennis last year that were used to begin proving out the modifications enabling NASA to upgrade the engines for use in the SLS.

The primary goal of the development tests was “to validate the capabilities of a new controller – or, “brain” – for the engine and to verify the different operating conditions needed for the SLS vehicle,” according to NASA officials.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for the RS-25 engine work and originally built them during the shuttle era.

The remaining cache of 16 heritage RS-25 engines are being recycled from their previous use as reusable space shuttle main engines (SSMEs). They are now being refurbished, upgraded and tested by NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne to power the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket now under full development.

A cluster of four RS-25 engines will power the SLS core stage. They will fire at 109 percent thrust level for some eight and a half minutes while generating a combined two million pounds of thrust.

Each of the RS-25’s engines generates some 500,000 pounds of thrust. They are fueled by cryogenic liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). For SLS they will be operating at 109% of power, compared to a routine usage of 104.5% during the shuttle era. They measure 14 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter.

They have to withstand and survive temperature extremes ranging from -423 degrees F to more than 6000 degrees F.

The workhorse engines are among the most proven in the world, says NASA, having powered 135 space shuttle missions from 1981 to 2011.

“Not only does this test mark an important step towards proving our existing design for SLS’s first flight,” said Steve Wofford, engines manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the SLS Program is managed for the agency, “but it’s also a great feeling that this engine that has carried so many astronauts into space before is being prepared to take astronauts to space once again on SLS’s first crewed flight.”

The next step is to continue hot fire development tests with all the upgrades and qualify all the RS-25 flight engines for SLS launches.

The maiden test flight of the SLS is targeted for no later than November 2018 and will be configured in its initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) version with a liftoff thrust of 8.4 million pounds.

SLS-1 will boost the unmanned Orion EM-1 capsule on an approximately three week long test flight beyond the Moon and back.

I was on hand when the welded skeleton of Orion EM-1 recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 1 for outfitting with all the systems and subsystems necessary for flight.

NASA plans to gradually upgrade the SLS to achieve an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons), enabling the more distant missions even farther into our solar system.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

The post NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon appeared first on Universe Today.

NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon

NASA engineers conduct a successful test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System vehicle.  Credits: NASA/SSC

NASA engineers have successfully test fired the first flight engine destined to power the agency’s mammoth new SLS rocket that will launch American astronauts back to the Moon and deep space for the first time in nearly five decades.

The flight proven RS-25 powerplant engine previously flew as one of three main engines that successfully rocketed NASA’s space shuttle orbiters to space during the three decade long Space Shuttle era that ended in 2011.

On March 10, NASA engineers conducted a successful 500 second long test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle. It also simultaneously marks a major milestone towards implementing the agency’s vision of sending humans on future deep-space missions to destinations including the Moon, an asteroid and a ‘Journey to Mars.’

“What a great moment for NASA and Stennis,” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in a statement.

“We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction.”

This NASA video shows the full duration hot-fire test:

https://youtu.be/njb9Z2jX2fA

Video caption: NASA engineers at Stennis Space Center tested RS-25 engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand on March 10, 2016. This was the first flight engine for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), to be tested at Stennis. Credit: NASA

The SLS is the most powerful rocket the world has ever seen and will loft astronauts in the Orion capsule on missions back to the Moon by around 2021, to an asteroid around 2025 and then beyond on a ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s – NASA’s overriding and agency wide goal. The first unmanned SLS test flight is slated for late 2018.

Thursdays hot fire test follows a lengthy series of engine tests with development versions of the RS-25 at Stennis last year that were used to begin proving out the modifications enabling NASA to upgrade the engines for use in the SLS.

The primary goal of the development tests was “to validate the capabilities of a new controller – or, “brain” – for the engine and to verify the different operating conditions needed for the SLS vehicle,” according to NASA officials.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for the RS-25 engine work and originally built them during the shuttle era.

The remaining cache of 16 heritage RS-25 engines are being recycled from their previous use as reusable space shuttle main engines (SSMEs). They are now being refurbished, upgraded and tested by NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne to power the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket now under full development.

A cluster of four RS-25 engines will power the SLS core stage. They will fire at 109 percent thrust level for some eight and a half minutes while generating a combined two million pounds of thrust.

Each of the RS-25’s engines generates some 500,000 pounds of thrust. They are fueled by cryogenic liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). For SLS they will be operating at 109% of power, compared to a routine usage of 104.5% during the shuttle era. They measure 14 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter.

They have to withstand and survive temperature extremes ranging from -423 degrees F to more than 6000 degrees F.

The workhorse engines are among the most proven in the world, says NASA, having powered 135 space shuttle missions from 1981 to 2011.

“Not only does this test mark an important step towards proving our existing design for SLS’s first flight,” said Steve Wofford, engines manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the SLS Program is managed for the agency, “but it’s also a great feeling that this engine that has carried so many astronauts into space before is being prepared to take astronauts to space once again on SLS’s first crewed flight.”

The next step is to continue hot fire development tests with all the upgrades and qualify all the RS-25 flight engines for SLS launches.

The maiden test flight of the SLS is targeted for no later than November 2018 and will be configured in its initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) version with a liftoff thrust of 8.4 million pounds.

SLS-1 will boost the unmanned Orion EM-1 capsule on an approximately three week long test flight beyond the Moon and back.

I was on hand when the welded skeleton of Orion EM-1 recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 1 for outfitting with all the systems and subsystems necessary for flight.

NASA plans to gradually upgrade the SLS to achieve an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons), enabling the more distant missions even farther into our solar system.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

The post NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon appeared first on Universe Today.

NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon

NASA engineers conduct a successful test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System vehicle.  Credits: NASA/SSC

NASA engineers have successfully test fired the first flight engine destined to power the agency’s mammoth new SLS rocket that will launch American astronauts back to the Moon and deep space for the first time in nearly five decades.

The flight proven RS-25 powerplant engine previously flew as one of three main engines that successfully rocketed NASA’s space shuttle orbiters to space during the three decade long Space Shuttle era that ended in 2011.

On March 10, NASA engineers conducted a successful 500 second long test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle. It also simultaneously marks a major milestone towards implementing the agency’s vision of sending humans on future deep-space missions to destinations including the Moon, an asteroid and a ‘Journey to Mars.’

“What a great moment for NASA and Stennis,” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in a statement.

“We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction.”

This NASA video shows the full duration hot-fire test:

https://youtu.be/njb9Z2jX2fA

Video caption: NASA engineers at Stennis Space Center tested RS-25 engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand on March 10, 2016. This was the first flight engine for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), to be tested at Stennis. Credit: NASA

The SLS is the most powerful rocket the world has ever seen and will loft astronauts in the Orion capsule on missions back to the Moon by around 2021, to an asteroid around 2025 and then beyond on a ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s – NASA’s overriding and agency wide goal. The first unmanned SLS test flight is slated for late 2018.

Thursdays hot fire test follows a lengthy series of engine tests with development versions of the RS-25 at Stennis last year that were used to begin proving out the modifications enabling NASA to upgrade the engines for use in the SLS.

The primary goal of the development tests was “to validate the capabilities of a new controller – or, “brain” – for the engine and to verify the different operating conditions needed for the SLS vehicle,” according to NASA officials.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for the RS-25 engine work and originally built them during the shuttle era.

The remaining cache of 16 heritage RS-25 engines are being recycled from their previous use as reusable space shuttle main engines (SSMEs). They are now being refurbished, upgraded and tested by NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne to power the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket now under full development.

A cluster of four RS-25 engines will power the SLS core stage. They will fire at 109 percent thrust level for some eight and a half minutes while generating a combined two million pounds of thrust.

Each of the RS-25’s engines generates some 500,000 pounds of thrust. They are fueled by cryogenic liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). For SLS they will be operating at 109% of power, compared to a routine usage of 104.5% during the shuttle era. They measure 14 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter.

They have to withstand and survive temperature extremes ranging from -423 degrees F to more than 6000 degrees F.

The workhorse engines are among the most proven in the world, says NASA, having powered 135 space shuttle missions from 1981 to 2011.

“Not only does this test mark an important step towards proving our existing design for SLS’s first flight,” said Steve Wofford, engines manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the SLS Program is managed for the agency, “but it’s also a great feeling that this engine that has carried so many astronauts into space before is being prepared to take astronauts to space once again on SLS’s first crewed flight.”

The next step is to continue hot fire development tests with all the upgrades and qualify all the RS-25 flight engines for SLS launches.

The maiden test flight of the SLS is targeted for no later than November 2018 and will be configured in its initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) version with a liftoff thrust of 8.4 million pounds.

SLS-1 will boost the unmanned Orion EM-1 capsule on an approximately three week long test flight beyond the Moon and back.

I was on hand when the welded skeleton of Orion EM-1 recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 1 for outfitting with all the systems and subsystems necessary for flight.

NASA plans to gradually upgrade the SLS to achieve an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons), enabling the more distant missions even farther into our solar system.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

The post NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon appeared first on Universe Today.

NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon

NASA engineers conduct a successful test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System vehicle.  Credits: NASA/SSC

NASA engineers have successfully test fired the first flight engine destined to power the agency’s mammoth new SLS rocket that will launch American astronauts back to the Moon and deep space for the first time in nearly five decades.

The flight proven RS-25 powerplant engine previously flew as one of three main engines that successfully rocketed NASA’s space shuttle orbiters to space during the three decade long Space Shuttle era that ended in 2011.

On March 10, NASA engineers conducted a successful 500 second long test firing of RS-25 rocket engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The hot fire marks the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle. It also simultaneously marks a major milestone towards implementing the agency’s vision of sending humans on future deep-space missions to destinations including the Moon, an asteroid and a ‘Journey to Mars.’

“What a great moment for NASA and Stennis,” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in a statement.

“We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction.”

This NASA video shows the full duration hot-fire test:

https://youtu.be/njb9Z2jX2fA

Video caption: NASA engineers at Stennis Space Center tested RS-25 engine No. 2059 on the A-1 Test Stand on March 10, 2016. This was the first flight engine for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), to be tested at Stennis. Credit: NASA

The SLS is the most powerful rocket the world has ever seen and will loft astronauts in the Orion capsule on missions back to the Moon by around 2021, to an asteroid around 2025 and then beyond on a ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s – NASA’s overriding and agency wide goal. The first unmanned SLS test flight is slated for late 2018.

Thursdays hot fire test follows a lengthy series of engine tests with development versions of the RS-25 at Stennis last year that were used to begin proving out the modifications enabling NASA to upgrade the engines for use in the SLS.

The primary goal of the development tests was “to validate the capabilities of a new controller – or, “brain” – for the engine and to verify the different operating conditions needed for the SLS vehicle,” according to NASA officials.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for the RS-25 engine work and originally built them during the shuttle era.

The remaining cache of 16 heritage RS-25 engines are being recycled from their previous use as reusable space shuttle main engines (SSMEs). They are now being refurbished, upgraded and tested by NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne to power the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket now under full development.

A cluster of four RS-25 engines will power the SLS core stage. They will fire at 109 percent thrust level for some eight and a half minutes while generating a combined two million pounds of thrust.

Each of the RS-25’s engines generates some 500,000 pounds of thrust. They are fueled by cryogenic liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX). For SLS they will be operating at 109% of power, compared to a routine usage of 104.5% during the shuttle era. They measure 14 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter.

They have to withstand and survive temperature extremes ranging from -423 degrees F to more than 6000 degrees F.

The workhorse engines are among the most proven in the world, says NASA, having powered 135 space shuttle missions from 1981 to 2011.

“Not only does this test mark an important step towards proving our existing design for SLS’s first flight,” said Steve Wofford, engines manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the SLS Program is managed for the agency, “but it’s also a great feeling that this engine that has carried so many astronauts into space before is being prepared to take astronauts to space once again on SLS’s first crewed flight.”

The next step is to continue hot fire development tests with all the upgrades and qualify all the RS-25 flight engines for SLS launches.

The maiden test flight of the SLS is targeted for no later than November 2018 and will be configured in its initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) version with a liftoff thrust of 8.4 million pounds.

SLS-1 will boost the unmanned Orion EM-1 capsule on an approximately three week long test flight beyond the Moon and back.

I was on hand when the welded skeleton of Orion EM-1 recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 1 for outfitting with all the systems and subsystems necessary for flight.

NASA plans to gradually upgrade the SLS to achieve an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons), enabling the more distant missions even farther into our solar system.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

The post NASA Test Fires SLS Flight Engine Destined to Launch Astronauts Back to the Moon appeared first on Universe Today.

NASA’s Orion Crew Module Backbone Arrives at KSC Aboard Super Guppy for Exploration Mission-1

NASA’s Orion EM-1 crew module pressure vessel arrived at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility tucked inside NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft on Feb 1, 2016. The Super Guppy opens its hinged nose to unload cargo.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – Looking amazingly like a fish flying across the skies high above the Florida space coast, NASA’s unique Super Guppy aircraft loaded with the structural backbone for NASA’s next Orion crew module, swooped in for a landing at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday afternoon, Feb. 1.

The Super Guppy, with the recently completed pressure vessel for the Orion crew module tucked safely inside, touched down gently at about 3:45 p.m. Monday on the same runway at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) where NASA’s now retired orbiters formerly returned from space voyages. The landing strip is now operated by Space Florida.

Orion’s arrival at KSC marks a major milestone on the road to starting NASA’s ‘Journey to Mars’ initiative.

This Lunar Orion vehicle is destined for blastoff to the Moon in 2018 on NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) atop the agency’s mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

EM-1 is a ‘proving ground’ mission that will fly an unmanned Orion thousands of miles beyond the Moon, further than any human capable vehicle, and back to Earth, over the course of a three-week mission.

“This is an exciting day for NASA,” NASA Orion program manager Scott Wilson told Universe Today, at the shuttle landing strip after Orion’s safe arrival.

The olive green colored pressure vessel is the spacecraft’s underlying structure on which all of the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems are built and integrated prior to liftoff.

Earlier in the day, Orion departed from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the vehicle’s pressure vessel was welded into shape by engineers using an advanced friction-stir welding process.

The crated Orion has packed into the aquatic looking Super Guppy’s cargo compartment that measures 25 feet tall, 25 feet wide and 111 feet long and can carry more than 26 tons.

The EM-1 pressure vessel weighs about 2700 lbs. It stands 10 feet high and is nearly 5 meters in diameter. After installing the thermal protection system, the finished Orion flight capsule will be about 11 feet high and 16.5 feet wide.

The aircraft possesses a unique hinged nose that opens at the front end over 200 degrees. This permits large pieces of cargo, like the voluminous Orion pressure vessel and heat shield, to be easily loaded and unloaded from the front.

Indeed the aircrafts nose was promptly opened less than a hour after touchdown at Kennedy’s SLF to begin the delicate unloading and uncrating process.

The next step is to transport Orion a few miles down the road to KSC’s Neil Armstrong Operation and Checkout Building (O & C). There, engineers from NASA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin will spend the next two years outfitting Orion’s backbone for launch in late 2018.

The team will install all the systems and subsystems for its inaugural flight to the Moon and back.

These systems include the heat shield, thermal protection, propulsion, avionics, computers, plumbing, electrical, life support, parachutes and much more.

The pressure vessel itself is comprised of seven large aluminum pieces that Michoud technicians began welding together in September 2015 using the highly precise state-of-the-art process called friction-stir welding.

The last of the seven friction-stir welds to assemble the primary structure for NASA’s EM-1 capsule was finished on Jan. 13.

Overall this is the third Orion capsule that NASA has built, following the Ground Test Article (GTA), which did not fly, and the EFT-1 capsule which successfully launched just over one year ago on Dec. 5, 2014.

There have been many lessons learned and over that time. Among the advances are that engineers have reduced the number of welds from 33 to 7. As a result of needing so many fewer welds, the team has saved over 700 pounds of weight which can be directly converted into up mass.

The 2018 launch of NASA’s Orion on an unpiloted flight dubbed Exploration Mission, or EM-1, counts as the first joint flight of SLS and Orion, and the first flight of a human rated spacecraft to deep space since the Apollo Moon landing era ended more than 4 decades ago.

Orion is designed to send astronauts deeper into space than ever before, including missions to the Moon, asteroids and the Red Planet.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post NASA’s Orion Crew Module Backbone Arrives at KSC Aboard Super Guppy for Exploration Mission-1 appeared first on Universe Today.

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