World news – 8 Minute Fire: Watch NASA test their giant new moon rocket

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A test earlier this year of the core phase of the Space Launch System was affected by errors, so the agency will be undertaking a revision.

On Thursday, NASA’s new large rocket, the Space Launch System, will have a second attempt venturing nowhere to go.

This test, known as hot fire, is a critical step for the rocket, which has been in development for more than a decade. The four motors on the booster stage fire and run through the steps they would take during an actual launch into orbit – but while held firmly to Earth.

When NASA first did this in January Tried test with hot fire, the engines were brought to life. But instead of firing for eight minutes, the rocket’s computer shut down the engines after only about a minute.

NASA said at 3:45 p.m. Eastern that it was within 45 minutes of the test – about 4:30 p.m. That’s within the two-hour window they had for testing, which began at 3 p.m.

Just after 2:30 p.m. In the east, NASA said the rocket had been filled with more than 700,000 gallons of propellant.

The test will be broadcast live on NASA television. Coverage begins about 30 minutes before the rocket ignites. Or you can see it in the player above.

The Space Launch System is the 21st century equivalent of the Saturn 5 that took NASA astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Although there are many other rockets today, they are too small to launch spaceships that can carry humans to the moon. One possible exception is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, but a human moon mission would require two separate launches that carry parts that would then dock together in space or go to the moon separately.

The Falcon Heavy can go up to 64 tons to near-earth Raise orbit. The original version of the S.L.S. is a bit more powerful and can lift 70 tons. Future versions of the rocket can throw up to 130 tons, more than the rockets that brought the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

Although the space launch system will be expensive – up to $ 2 billion per launch for one Missile that can only be used once – Congress has so far given unwavering financial support for it. Supporters claim it is important for the government to own and operate its own powerful space rocket, and parts of the system are being built by companies across the country, spreading the economic benefits to many states and congressional districts.

That The Space Launch System is a key component of Artemis, the program designed to bring NASA astronauts back to the moon in the years to come. Although former President Donald J. Trump promised to make the trip by the end of 2024, few expected NASA to actually stick to that schedule before President Biden was elected.

During a full eight-minute test, the four engines generate more than two million pounds of thrust. But NASA officials say they need the test to run for at least four minutes to generate the data they want. The engines can do more than just fire during the test. They perform a number of activities, such as: B. throttling the thrust up and down and swiveling the nozzle direction.

The booster stage – NASA calls it the core stage – is mounted on a huge test bench in the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The same test bench was used to test the first stages of the Saturn 5 in the 1960s. The structure was also used during the development of the space shuttle.

Due to the size of the core stage of the Space Launch System – more than 200 feet high and 27.6 feet wide – the test rig was modified with an additional steel structure.

The motors in the SLS Core stages aren’t new, but those that were used by the space shuttles. This used, space-flown hardware was refurbished and upgraded for use on the new rocket.

The engines shut down early – after just 67 seconds – and as a result, NASA decided to collect more data to verify that the rocket will work properly during a real launch.

With the same core stage slated to launch later this year with no astronauts on board, engineers had to make sure Thursday’s test did not damage that part of the rocket. As a result, they set some parameters as « conservative » that would stop the test if something was wrong. This happened to the aggregate swiveling the nozzle of one of the engines, although officials said it would not have caused a problem during an actual start.

A second fault indicating a « major component failure » on another engine, had nothing to do with it and would not have caused the test to pause or issue a problem during a startup. As a result of this failure, a defective electronic device was replaced.

The engineers are confident that they have fixed the problems from the first step, but other malfunctions can occur as well.

Worst case would be a malfunction would destroy the booster. This would delay the program for years and again urge NASA to consider alternatives.

If the test is successful, the core stage will be packaged and shipped by barge to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There it and other rocket parts, including two strap-on rocket boosters, a second stage, and the Orion crew capsule, will be assembled for the Artemis 1 mission. (Artemis is Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology, and NASA officials have repeatedly said that one of the next astronauts to step on the moon will be a woman.) This will be a mission with no astronauts on board be. The launch will carry the Orion module and a large number of small CubeSats on a course to the moon. The capsule orbits the moon several times, similar to NASA’s Apollo 8 mission, before returning to Earth and splashing into a water landing.

The success of this mission could create the conditions for the first astronaut flight in Orion, and eventually to lead to a moon landing.

When NASA announced their plans for the space launch system in 2011, the first launch was planned for 2017. As is typical of new missile designs, the development encountered technical difficulties, such as the need to develop methods of welding metal parts together, large as those in the missile. NASA suspended work on the rocket for some time in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak last year.

When the first launch date slipped several times, the price soared. NASA has so far spent more than $ 10 billion on the rocket and more than $ 16 billion on the Orion capsule that the astronauts will sit in.

During an audit in 2018, the Inspector General of the NASA’s poor performance by Boeing, the prime contractor for building the booster phase, was responsible for much of the delay. Another 2020 report by the Inspector General said that NASA « continues to struggle with S.L.S. Program cost and schedule. “

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Ref: https://www.nytimes.com

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