On Tuesday 28 January,NASA lit up the desert with a tremendous and lengthy spurt of flame as it tested the Space Launch System booster at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems in Promontory,Utah.It was the second and final test firing before the first launch of the integrated Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket on the unmanned Exploration Mission-1 to a high orbit over the Moon in late 2018,NASA said.The two-minute full-duration qualification ground test for the SLS booster provided NASA with critical data to support booster qualification for flight and test the motor at the colder end of its accepted propellant temperature range at a targeted 40 degrees Fahrenheit.*
EM-1 will mark the farthest distance a human-rated spacecraft has ever traveled from the earth.The Orion/SLS pair will eventually launch astronauts into deep space,including an asteroid-redirect mission and then on to the Mars system,beginning with EM-2.*
The first SLS booster test had been successfully completed in March 2015 and demonstrated good performance at the higher end of the accepted propellant range of 90 degrees F.Testing at the extremes experienced on the launch pad is important to understanding the effects of temperature on the propellant's ballistic performance.*
The SLS booster was lying on its side on Test Stand 97 in a brushy and hilly desert landscape.A problem with a ground systems computer unrelated to the flight hardware caused a three hour delay of the test.Some 600 gigabytes of data were collected on the 82 test objectives as a crowd of at least hundreds of observers looked on from a mile and a half away.Former astronaut and now Orbital ATK Vice President Charlie Precourt described it as a beautiful test.The contractor aims to preserve the forensic data,freezing everything that happened at the moment of shutdown and dissecting the motor for qualification,Mr.Precourt said.Film,acoustics and temperature data will be digested.
The company is well into casing the propellant of the left booster of EM-1.Three of the total of 10 booster segments-five for each booster-needed for EM-1 are already completed and fueled for flight.*
Orbital ATK,Inc (OA)