Structural Tests Underway for Top of World’s Most Powerful Rocket
Testing is underway at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on the agency’s new Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft will enable deep-space missions, beginning a new era of exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.
Engineers at Marshall have stacked four qualification articles of the upper part of SLS into a 65-foot-tall test stand using more than 3,000 bolts to hold the hardware together. Tests are currently underway to ensure the rocket hardware can withstand the pressures of launch and flight.
The integrated tests consists of:
1. Launch Vehicle Adapter
2. Frangible Joint Assembly
3. Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage
4. Orion Stage Adapter
Engineers are using 28 load pistons to push, pull and
twist the rocket hardware, subjecting it to loads up to 40 percent greater than
that expected during flight. More than 100 miles of cables are transmitting measurements
across 1,900 data channels.
The Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, LVSA, connects the
SLS core stage and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, ICPS. The LVSA test
hardware is 26.5 feet tall, with a bottom diameter of 27.5 feet and a top
diameter of 16.8 feet. The frangible joint, located between the LVSA and ICPS,
is used to separate the two pieces of hardware during flight, allowing the ICPS
to provide the thrust to send Orion onto its mission.
The ICPS is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based
system that will give Orion the big, in-space push needed to fly beyond the
moon before it returns to Earth on the first flight of SLS in 2018. For this
test series, the fuel tanks are filled with nonflammable liquid nitrogen and
pressurized with gaseous nitrogen to simulate flight conditions. The nitrogen
is chilled to the same temperature as the oxygen and hydrogen under launch conditions.
The Orion Stage Adapter connects the Orion spacecraft
to the ICPS. It is 4.8 feet tall, with a 16.8-foot bottom diameter and 18-foot
The first integrated flight for SLS and Orion will allow NASA to use the lunar vicinity as a proving ground to test systems farther from Earth, and demonstrate Orion can get to a stable orbit in the area of space near the moon in order to support sending humans to deep space, including the Journey to Mars.
For more information about the powerful SLS rocket, check out: http://nasa.gov/SLS.