Nasa finds cause of 'megarocket' test shutdown

21 Janvier, 2021, 08:53 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • NASA will likely retest the hot fire of the Space Launch System's primary stage

A second full-blown test firing would reduce the remaining number of fill-ups.

The first hotfire test of the Space Launch System (SLS), performed on Saturday, January 16 at NASA's Stennis Space Centre in MS, came to a grinding halt at just over the one-minute mark when a key parameter went into out-of-bounds territory, explained NASA in a statement. The parameter in question has to do with the hydraulics required for gimbaling, or the pivoting, of each rocket engine. The test was supposed to run for the amount of time needed to get Artemis 1 to the moon, and is the last in a series of tests for the core stage, known as the Green Run. The four RS-25 engines fired for a little more than one minute. However, it was cut down after an issue within just 67 seconds.

After analysing the data from the test, NASA has determined the cause of the early shutdown, announcing that the problem was not with the engines or other hardware. This trial run was considered a vital checkpoint for its much-delayed SLS, which is set to play a major role in the Artemis program to send astronauts to the Moon.

NASA said that in addition to analyzing the data, before determining the next steps, the core stage and its four RS-25 engines will be inspected. Big on the schedule, and assume the launch this year has seamless heaping and integration processes - big assumption.

Speaking to SpaceFlightNow, outgoing NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said NASA "might be able to take the rocket down to Kennedy [Space Centre in Florida] and get it ready for launch", adding that this "decision has not been made", as the situation remains uncertain. As a result, the core stage's flight computers had no choice but to end the test as an automatic response to the exceeded parameters. It's not yet clear how Saturday's events affect that proposed timeline; the SLS team is weighing whether or not a second hot-fire test at Stennis is needed, NASA officials wrote in the update.

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Those parameters concerned engine hydraulics - specifically, the system created to gimbal, or pivot, each engine during flight.

NASA officials explain that the pre-programmed parameters were specifically designed for ground testing prior to the actual lift-off in hopes of ensuring the core stage's thrust vector control system and safety. For the test, the 212-foot core stage (considered the backbone of the SLS rocket) "generated 1.6 million pounds of thrust, while anchored in the B-2 Test Stand", NASA said. And in fact, NASA said the abbreviated test actually demonstrated this in action. NASA officials have said preparing for a retest would take at least a month.

There are four of these auxiliary power units in the core stage. He added, "Although the engines did not fire for the full duration, the team successfully worked through the countdown, ignited the engines, and gained valuable data to inform our path forward".

Green Run, a critical rocket test conducted by NASA, has recently ended with a shutdown. The team behind the SLS is now weighing whether a 2nd hot fire test is needed or not.

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