NASA says that SLS is “fine” after a disrupted launch exercise

NASA's SLS rocket on Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA’s SLS rocket on Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Photo: NASA / Ben Smegelsky

An important multi-day test of NASA’s space launch system was canceled on Monday due to problems with the compressed air valve for pressure media. The space agency is trying to resume wetting in the near future and says that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the giant rocket.

Space is difficult, as the saying goes, and it certainly applies when it comes to preparing a never-fledged rocket for an expedition to the moon and back. NASA is currently preparing its long-awaited SLS rocket for launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but the wet cover did not reach the finish line. The rocket was supposed to be fully prepared – including tanks topped with super-cold propellants and the countdown started – but not launched.

“May the lunar spacecraft be OK. We are working to bring it to launch, “Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s Assistant Director of Common Exploration Systems Development, told reporters at a news conference yesterday. “We just have to work our way through it,” he said, adding that the ground teams are “doing a very good job.

This work is being done in preparation for the crew of the Artemis 1 project, the initial flight of SLS. The next generation of missiles is an important part of the Artemis program, which seeks to land a man and a woman on the moon later this decade. NASA now plans to launch in June, but that will depend on the results of the wetsuit exercise, which has yet to be completed.

The space agency stopped the experiment on Monday after ground-based teams could not continue to charge freezing liquid hydrogen fuels. The problem was eventually traced to a manual exhaust valve that was left in the closed position, an unfortunate setting that could not be fixed remotely. Í statement, NASA said “the location of the valve has since been corrected. The team was able to charge approximately 50% of the required cryogenic liquid oxygen fuel to the core stage, which was then depleted.

The misaligned exhaust valve, located on the 160th floor of a movable starter, was hardly the only problem that the ground crews faced during the exercise, which began on Friday 1 April. Four lightning struck the launch pad on Saturday, leading to a slight delay, but the test came to dot Sunday when two fans, designed to ventilate the rocket’s 370-foot (113-meter) mobile ammunition, failed.

Despite this and other problems related to the third-party supplier of gaseous nitrogen, NASA picked up the wet dress on Monday. But again, new problems arose, including temperature problems for freezing oxygen, which caused a delay of several hours. The exercise was solved, the exercise continued, but the problem with the exhaust valve forced the launcher to call her at 17:00 EDT on Monday.

NASA is now preparing for the next wet-clad experiment, but it is stepping aside to allow a shot at the Axiom Space Ax-1 mission, which is due to explode from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday morning. The date for the resumption of the shooting has not been announced, but NASA officials said it would happen soon. The fully integrated missile, with the Orion capsule on top, continues to stand on launch pad 39B.

Whitmeyer missed less than an ideal launch exercise and said that the teams on the ground have learned “a few things” from this “very danced dance” that simply needs to be refined. “Sometimes you come across something you did not expect,” he told reporters, comparing it to a puzzle that did not quite fit. “The vehicle is doing quite well,” said Whitmeyer, adding that similar problems have arisen in the SLS Green Run tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center and in the evolution of the space shuttle.

At the press conference, Mike Sarafin, Artemis’s project manager, said the teams had found “no fundamental design flaws or problems” with the rocket and the problems experienced were best described as “troublesome” or “technical problems” that could not be identified. during the previous test.

“By putting it all together, you learn where the uncertainty is and we are working our way through it,” Sarafin said. “Sometimes you learn that a full system is a little different than the subscale, but there are no big problems to overcome.” Most of the problems are minor or procedural in nature, he said, such as minor timing changes or restrictions, but “as far as the rocket is concerned, the hardware is OK, the spacecraft is OK – we just have to get through the test and test objectives,” he said. .

“It was an important day for us. “Our team did a great job,” Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis’ launch director at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, told reporters. Indeed, while it is tempting to focus on the negative, the team managed to cross many items off their significant checklist. This included the installation of the Launch Pad 39B and the mobile firearm, the firing of the Orion and the rocket in shooting mode, audits of the navigation, navigation and control systems and the emptying of fuel after the test, among others.

No date has been set for Artemis 1 or the resumption of the wet dress, but the good news is that the training does not have to start from scratch. The clock is currently on hold and the shooting range is still in perfect condition, NASA officials said. The main priority to continue must be to finally fill the core and the second stage with cryogenic propellants and stop the countdown to T-10 seconds. When asked if SLS will still be on the market in June, Sarafin said: “We are not giving up yet.

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