Because space is vast and full of mysteries, NASA is developing a new rocket, a new spacecraft for astronauts and new facilities to launch them from. Our Space Launch System will be unlike any other rocket when it takes flight. It will be bigger, bolder and take astronauts and cargo farther than humankind has ever been – to deep space destinations like the moon, a deep space gateway or even Mars. 

The Gravity-Slayer

When you plan to get to space, you use ice and fire. NASA’s Space Launch System uses four rocket engines in the center of the rocket and a pair of solid rocket boosters on opposite sides. All this power will propel the Space Launch System to gravity-slaying speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour! These are the things we do for space exploration, the greatest adventure that ever was or will be.

It is Known

It is known that according to Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s how rocket propulsion works. Fuel burned in combustion chambers causes hot gases to shoot out the bottom of the engine nozzles. This propels the rocket upward. 

Steammaker

It is also known that when you combine hydrogen and oxygen you get: water. To help SLS get to space, the rocket’s four RS-25 engines shoot hydrogen and oxygen together at high speeds, making billowing clouds of steaming hot water vapor. The steam, funneled through the engine nozzles, expands with tremendous force and helps lift the rocket from the launchpad. 

RS-25: Ice King

It takes a lot of fuel (hydrogen) and a lot of oxygen to make a chemical reaction powerful enough to propel a rocket the size of a skyscraper off the launch pad. To fit more hydrogen and oxygen into the tanks in the center of the rocket where they’re stored, the hydrogen and oxygen are chilled to as low as -400 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, the gases become icy liquids. 

The Fire that Burns Against the Cold

The hydrogen-oxygen reaction inside the nozzles can reach temperatures up to 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit (alas, only Valyrian steel could withstand those temperatures)! To protect the nozzle from this heat, the icy hydrogen is pumped through more than a thousand small pipes on the outside of the nozzle to cool it. After the icy liquid protects the metal nozzles, it becomes fuel for the engines. 

Where is my FIRE?

The Space Launch System solid rocket boosters are the fire and the breakers of gravity’s chains. The solid rocket boosters’ fiery flight lasts for two minutes. They burn solid fuel that’s a potent mixture of chemicals the consistency of a rubber eraser. When the boosters light, hot gases and fire are unleashed at speeds up to three times the speed of sound, propelling the vehicle to gravity-slaying speed in seconds. 

Testing is Here

To make sure everything works on a rocket this big, it takes a lot of testing before the first flight. Rocket hardware is rolling off production lines all over the United States and being shipped to testing locations nationwide. Some of that test hardware includes replicas of the giant tanks that will hold the icy hydrogen and oxygen.

As Rare as Dragonglass

Other tests include firing the motor for the solid rocket boosters. The five-segment motor is the largest ever made for spaceflight and the part that contains the propellant that burns for two fiery, spectacular minutes. It’s common during ground test firings for the fiery exhaust to turn the sand in the Utah desert to glass.

Hold the Door

When all the hardware, software and avionics for SLS are ready, they will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center where the parts will be assembled to make the biggest rocket since the Saturn V. Then, technicians will stack Orion, NASA’s new spacecraft for taking astronauts to deep space, on top of SLS. All this work to assemble America’s new heavy-lift rocket and spacecraft will be done in the Vehicle Assembly Building – one of the largest buildings in the world. Hold the door to the Vehicle Assembly Building open, because SLS and Orion are coming!

Learn more about our Journey to Mars here: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

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In today’s episode of the clock-verse we meet Orion’s sister and damn she takes no hostages

5 NASA Software Codes You Can Download – For Free!

One of the biggest steps of any mission starts right here on Earth at a computer desk – NASA runs on software, period. Rovers can’t move, spacecraft can’t fly, even rockets can’t blast off without the software codes that run them all.

We’ve compiled hundreds of these powerful codes into one location at software.nasa.gov. And guess what? You can start downloading them right now for free! Here are just a few you can use:  

1. TetrUSS (Tetrahedral Unstructured Software System)

TetrUSS has been used extensively for space launch vehicle analysis and design, like on the Space Launch System, which is planned to take humans to Mars.

You really could say it’s helping us to “blast off.” Outside of NASA, this software has been used to analyze Mars planetary entry vehicles, ballistics and even high-altitude sky diver aerodynamics. Basically if anything has moved through any planetary atmosphere, this software has played a role.

2. KNIFE (part of the FUN3D software and released as a package)

The name may be a bit intimidating, but with good reason – KNIFE packs a powerful punch. 

It was created to help us learn more about the sonic booms that resonate when planes break the sound barrier, but it has also helped develop green energy sources such as wind turbines and techniques to minimize drag for long-haul trucking. Maybe we should re-name this versatile and handy code, “Swiss Army KNIFE?”

3. Cart3D (Automated Triangle Geometry Processing for Surface Modeling and Cartesian Grid Generation)

If software codes went to high school, Cart3D would be Prom Queen. This software is so popular, it is being used in almost every mission area here at NASA. 

Engineers and scientists are currently using it to model everything from advanced drones to quieter supersonic aircraft.

4. FACET (Future Air Traffic Management Concepts Evaluation Tool)

Frequent flyers: this may be your favorite code without even knowing it. FACET was developed to evaluate futuristic concepts in air traffic management, and it has served as a testbed for assessing today’s regular operations. 

To sum it up, this software code helps airports keep planes organized in the air and on the ground.

5. GIPSY-OASIS

GIPSY-OASIS is part of the GPS system to end all GPS systems. It’s so accurate, John Deere used it to help create self-driving tractors.

 How? John Deere already had a navigation system in the works, but it could only be used in certain parts of the world. 

Our ground stations are all across the globe, and our software ensures accuracy down to a few inches. And so, a new breed of tractor was born!  Did we mention this software is free?

These are just a few examples of the software NASA has available for free public and consumer use. To browse the catalog online, check out software.nasa.gov.

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