Nasa has been developing a “megarocket” to send humans to the Moon and, eventually, Mars. The last critical tests of the giant launcher’s core section are expected to take place within the next few weeks. Sometimes compared to the iconic Saturn V, can the Space Launch System (SLS) help capture the excitement of lunar exploration for a new generation?
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket Green Run hot fire test – the test of the rocket’s core stage and all of its integrated systems before its flight on the Artemis I lunar mission, scheduled for 2021. NASA is targeting early November for the test in the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
The hot fire is the final in a series of eight tests that ensure the stage’s systems are functioning and ready for operation. The test replicates the launch by loading the propellants and allowing them to flow throughout the system as the four RS-25 engines fire simultaneously to demonstrate that the engines, tanks, fuel lines, valves, pressurization system, and software can all perform together just as they will on launch day.
In southern Mississippi, near the border with Louisiana, engineers have been putting a remarkable piece of hardware through its paces.
A giant orange cylinder is suspended on an equally imposing steel structure called the B-2 test stand on the grounds of Stennis Space Center, a Nasa test facility outside the city of Bay St Louis.
Measuring 65m (212ft) from top to bottom – longer than the Statue of Liberty – the cylinder represents the core of a space vehicle more powerful than anything the world has seen since the 1960s.
It’s called the Space Launch System (SLS) and it consists of the liquid-fuelled core stage – with four powerful RS-25 engines at its base – and two solid fuel boosters which are strapped to the sides.
Source: NASA and BBC contributed