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NASA’s first test article for the Space Launch System’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage arrived at its test stand at Marshall Space Flight Center earlier today, November 16. The stage was moved from its assembly facility in Decatur, Alabama to Marshall in Huntsville via the Tennessee River June 19.

Here, it will be stacked with other test components of the upper portion of the Space Launch System, which will then undergo structural load testing at the center’s newly-constructed SLS test stand. The completed STA stack - consisting of the core stage simulator, launch vehicle stage adapter, ICPS, and Orion spacecraft simulator - will stand more than 56 feet tall.

Structural Test Articles help engineers test a vehicle’s design loads during flight conditions. The STA vehicle being assembled at Marshall will be vibrated, pushed, pulled, and twisted to ensure all components remain within acceptable conditions. 

This is the first ICPS built by by Boeing, who is the Space Launch System’s prime contractor. The ICPS is the second stage of the SLS, and will be used to loft Orion into Earth orbit, and then into deep space. As its name suggests, it will only fly on EM-1 and EM-2 before being replaced by the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage.

The design of the ICPS is derived from the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage, the upper stage of the Delta IV rocket. The STA - without an engine nozzle - stands more than 29 feet tall and 17 feet wide.

P/c: NASA

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T+162 days (May 15, 2015) - EFT-1 heat shield nears end of analysis

Ever since it arrived at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on March 9, engineers have been cutting up Orion EFT-1′s heat shield to better understand how it withstood 4,000 degrees of searing heat. The 16.5 foot wide, Avcoat heat shield was the first thermal shield designed for deep-space human spaceflight since the 1960′s.

Engineers have been removing the material from the backshell since mid March, laser-mapping the entire heat shield before the process began. A seven-axis milling machine unique to Marshall was used to remove the material.

Over 180 squares have been cut from the single-piece heat shield, which have been sent to research centers across the country to analyze and determine the heatshield’s performance.

Once completed at the end of May, the milling machine will smooth the heat shield to a layer one-tenth of an inch thick. In early June, the backshell will be transported to Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where it will see new life as a water impact test article.

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J-2X engine combustion stability test at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center.

Shuttle Enterprise arrives at the Marshall Space Flight Center for the Mated Vertical Ground Vibration Test (MVGVT) series in Huntsville, Alabama, 1 March, 1978. The test series began at the Dynamic Test Stand in 1978 with the other components of the Space Transportation System.  Booster configuration tests, involving the orbiter Enterprise and the External Tank, began in May and were completed in July. Here, the orbiter passes MSFC Building 4200 on its way to the test area.

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