NASA counts all the way down to inside 29 seconds of launching the massive SLS rocket

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NASA's Space Launch System rocket, imaged in the spin basin at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, launches for a fourth dress rehearsal attempt on June 6, 2022.
Enlarge / NASA’s House Launch System rocket, imaged within the spin basin on the Kennedy House Heart in Florida, launches for a fourth gown rehearsal try on June 6, 2022.

Trevor Mahlman

NASA tried thrice throughout April to finish a crucial refueling check of its massive House Launch System rocket. And thrice, resulting from half a dozen technical issues, the house company failed.

And so NASA made the tough choice to roll the large rocket again to the Car Meeting Constructing for repairs, including a few months of delays to a program that was already years delayed. After this work was accomplished in early June, NASA rolled the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft again to the launch pad for a fourth try.

The painful choice turned out to be the precise one. Over the course of greater than 14 hours on Monday, NASA largely managed to finish this fueling check, loading a whole lot of hundreds of gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen into the SLS rocket’s first and second levels.

“It was a protracted day for the staff, however I believe it was a really profitable day for the staff,” he stated. Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, launch supervisor for Artemis.

She and different NASA officers joined a convention name with reporters Tuesday to debate the outcomes of the fourth “moist gown trial” check, which goals to unravel issues with the rocket’s countdown to liftoff earlier than the launch day. To that extent, the check appeared to largely work. NASA acquired to inside T-29 seconds of liftoff in the course of the check, near its meant goal of T-9.3 seconds, earlier than ending the check simply earlier than firing all 4 of the rocket’s major engines.

Through the teleconference, NASA officers declined to reply particular questions on whether or not a fifth check could be wanted to deliver the countdown to T-9.3 seconds or when the rocket could be prepared for its debut launch. Citing a need to evaluate extra knowledge, officers stated they anticipated to supply this data in a pair extra days. Nonetheless, primarily based on his feedback, it appeared that officers could be inclined to a fifth check.

A handful of technical issues occurred throughout Monday’s check, the largest of which was a hydrogen leak at a fast disconnect on the backside of the cell launch tower that helps the SLS rocket throughout fueling. This 4-inch hydrogen line is one among a number of which can be launched from the rocket simply earlier than liftoff and hook up with the tower’s tail service mast.

NASA was unable to resolve the problem with a leaky seal over the last a part of Monday’s check, so it opted to masks the leak from the bottom launch sequencer, the ground-side pc that controls a lot of the countdown. . This didn’t pose any threat to the rocket throughout testing, however must be mounted earlier than an precise launch.

With this little bit of masking, the NASA launch staff was capable of go from T-10 minutes to T-29 seconds and show the power to not solely fill the SLS rocket but additionally hold its gasoline tanks full. When the launch sequencer on the bottom handed the rocket’s onboard pc for the ultimate portion of the countdown, the flight pc robotically completed the countdown.

NASA officers appreciated what they noticed. “That is the primary time we have been in a totally cryogenic setting on each the core stage and the higher stage,” stated Blackwell-Thompson. “The terminal rely is a really dynamic time. I hoped we’d have one or two issues that we wanted to speak about on the terminal rely, but it surely was extraordinarily simple. There was nothing to speak about.”

This fueling check is the ultimate main hurdle between the SLS rocket and a launch try later this yr. There may be nonetheless work to be executed, and the company has to resolve if one other moist gown check is critical. However Mike Sarafin, the supervisor of the Artemis I mission, stated he believed NASA had accomplished about 90 p.c of the check goals so far.

Along with repairing the leaking hydrogen seal, NASA nonetheless must roll the rocket again to the Car Meeting Constructing to put in and arm the flight termination system. This work is more likely to stop a launch try earlier than the top of September on the earliest.

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