the critical test of its biggest pitcher ends in failure

NASA carried out a test of the main floor of the SLS at the Stennis Space Center. The “Green Run” test came to an end after a short minute.

This Saturday took place an extremely important test for NASA. This is the long-awaited test of the SLS, Space Launch System, which had been postponed many times. It is the largest launcher in the world intended to receive the Orion capsule for manned flight. This launch simulation was essential for the continuation of the Artemis program which provides for manned flight for 2024.

Firing the SLS. Source: Nasa

During the test, the motors ran for about a minute. Initially the team had planned to maintain the experiment for about eight minutes, which is about the time of the launch of the next mission to the Moon. Instead, after a minute on live from NASA, a voice can be heard saying “We have a major malfunction on Engine 4”. Shortly after, the engines will stop.

On its blog, NASA reports that the flight software stopped the test itself. “At this level, the test was fully automated. During the firing, the on-board software reacted well and initiated an emergency stop of the engines ”.

Less data than expected for the test

John Shannon, head of the SLS project at Boeing, said earlier in the week to expect at least 250 seconds of payload. “If we have an unscheduled shutdown, for whatever reason, we’ll have all the data we need to be very confident in the pitcher after about 250 seconds.” The team had planned in this window of time to make several maneuvers to test the reactivity of the engines in operation.

Obviously, we are far from the expected 250 seconds. It is not less than 1400 sensors which recorded the data. They monitored, among other things, vibrations, temperature, acoustics and the pressures exerted on certain rooms. Even though the test was cut short, these sensors collected a lot of data that could eventually help NASA determine the way forward.

A project rejected many times

The SLS is a project between NASA and Boeing with the aim of creating the largest existing launcher. The importance of this type of launcher lies in the need to have the greatest possible payload for large-scale missions. The SLS is based on 4 well-known RS 25 engines, already used as main engines for the space shuttle.

Developed for many years, the first flight was to take place in 2017. Instead, it has been plagued by numerous delays and its cost which far exceeds the original budgets. Even if this Saturday’s test should have taken place in December 2020, NASA was hoping for a first flight in November 2021.

The test that took place marked the start of the Artemis I mission which consists of sending the Orion capsule, uninhabited, into orbit around the Moon. It is still too early to know the impact of this week’s failure on the program. NASA should soon give a press conference on this subject.

Source : Theverge

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