NASA declares successful tanking test of SLS megarocket

Engineers repairing the area where the liquid hydrogen leak was detected during SLS' second attempt on September 3.  This photo was taken on September 8 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Engineers repairing the area where the liquid hydrogen leak was detected during SLS’ second attempt on September 3. This photo was taken on September 8 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
photo, NASA

A demonstration to confirm a repaired hydrogen leak appears to have gone well, NASA declared Wednesday’s cryogenic tanking test successful. Engineers still need to review the results, but the space agency may be on track to complete the third launch attempt of its SLS megarocket in just six days—a mission that will officially kick off the Artemis lunar program .

Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson declared a “go” for tanking at 7:30 a.m. (all time Eastern), approximately 30 minutes after the scheduled time. Ground teams began the process of loading more than 700,000 gallons of propellant into the megarocket, beginning with the core stage. Today’s cryogenic tanking test, as it was called, took place as the 321-foot-tall (98-meter) rocket landed at Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The test follows two previous launch attempts, both of which ended in scrubs for different reasons. first scrubOn 29 August, a. was the result of Faulty sensor that recorded an incorrect engine temperature readingwhen second scrub, on September 3, was the result of a significant hydrogen leak, which NASA later traced to damaged seals on the quick disconnect fitting between the liquid hydrogen fuel line and the core stage. SLS uses a mixture of oxygen and liquid hydrogen, the latter of which has a . It happens tendency to leak Because of its small nuclear stature.

Not yet ready for the third launch attempt, NASA officials decided to run cryogenic tanking tests, the primary objective of which was to “see the two new seals,” said Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for general exploration systems development. In at NASA, told reporters on Monday. NASA officials refrained from calling today’s test a wet dress rehearsal because the key objectives of the wet dress, such as going through the terminal count phase of the countdown and powering the Orion spacecraft and side boosters, were not covered Wednesday was.examination of.

For today’s test, a key strategy was for ground teams to employ a “Kind, gentleman“The approach to tanking. Engineers realized that the slow rate would reduce the potential for thermal shock, as the components are exposed to ultra-cold propellant at high temperatures.Reaches -423 °F (-217 °C). It is possible that thermal shock, or an unintended over-pressure, resulted in the hydrogen leak on September 3, but the exact cause of the faulty 8-inch seal, which displayed a possible indentation mark less than 0.01 inches in size, is not yet Known.

At around 9:45, ground teams transitioned from slow fill to fast fill. An hour later, the teams reported a hydrogen leak at the quick disconnect between the rocket and the tail service mast umbilical cord, an ominous sign. Blackwell-Thompson signed off on an upcoming plan to overheat the line and reset the connection point, and the teams were back in business about an hour later. Speaking to Blackwell-Thompson after the test, NASA launch commentator Darrol Nell said, “You can feel the room get a little cramped, but as [the ground teams] Crossed it, you can feel a certain upliftment of the room. ,

After thermal conditioning of the rocket was completed, tanking went quickly and smoothly Four RS-25 Engines Happening shortly before 1:00 p.m., the teams managed to completely fill the Core Stage and Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), known as the Upper Stage, with propellant. By 3:45 pm, the launch controllers had completed the pre-pressurization test, shortly thereafter de-tanking activities began. “All objectives of the Artemis 1 cryogenic demonstration have been met,” tweeted NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems was launched at 4:33 p.m., and the test was declared complete 20 minutes later.

“I think the test went really well,” Blackwell-Thompson told Kiel. “We wanted to learn, we wanted to evaluate” [tail service mast umbilicals] under cryogenic conditions. She said teams were also working with a new loading operation, the so-called kinder, gentler approach, which Blackwell-Thompson described as “very purposeful.” Ultimately, “all testing objectives were met today,” she said.

NASA will have to review today’s test results and decide how to proceed. Ideally, engineers would like what they saw, setting the stage for launch in just six days. Assuming the test is as successful as it appears, NASA can Launch SLS early September 27, opens at 11:37 a.m. ET with a 70-minute launch window. For that to happen, however, the space agency still needs to be exempt from the Eastern Range of the Space Force, which manages launches along the Florida east coast. NASA is currently attempting to launch Artemis 1 MissionIn which the SLS rocket will deliver an uncrewed Orion capsule on its journey to the Moon and back.

A successful launch will begin it was artemiso, in which NASA is seeking a permanent and continuous presence in the lunar atmosphere. Artemis 1 is a demonstration mission that will set the stage for Artemis 2, with a crewed Orion spacecraft attempting a similar trip in late 2024.

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