NASA Boeing engineers are estimating how to proceed with the final test Space launch system (SLS) tied to a megarocket for a month after an early shutdown during a “wet dress rehearsal” on Sunday (December 20th).
The stakes are the launch date of Artemis 1, the first deployed flight of NASA’s lunar launch program by 2024. This mission to orbit the moon should be launched in late 2021, but it is largely depends on timely and successful SLS testing before the rocket travels to Florida for final construction and launch.
The testing campaign has been slowed by precautionary measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and a series of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this month, the team managed to move on Problems with ground equipment when loading fuel, fully equipping rocket tanks with 700,000 gallons (2.6 million liters) of liquid oxygen and hydrogen. Although the base phase “performed well” refueling and refueling at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the test ended unexpectedly early, NASA said in a statement.
Photos: NASA’s first SLS mega-rocket core for the Moon has its own engines
“Part of the test was to simulate a countdown with filled tanks, which led up to 33 seconds before the engine started,” NASA officials wrote. in a blog post Monday (December 21).
“However, the test ended a few minutes shorter than the planned countdown duration. The core and B-2 test stand are in excellent condition and do not appear to be a hardware problem. The team is evaluating the data to determine the exact cause of the early shutdown.”
After NASA completes this general test, the SLS will then pass a “hot fire” test, during which it will fire all four rocket engines at the same time to make sure they are set for space flight. The agency has not outlined alternatives for this testing plan in case more work is needed to prepare the SLS for the flight.
NASA’s challenges in striving to place humans on the Moon by 2024 are not just related to SLS. The agency is also facing funding problems for its Human Landing System (HLS) program in its $ 20.3 billion fiscal budget for 2021. HLS received only $ 850 million, a quarter of the administration’s $ 3.3 billion request; saying that the Orion spacecraft, SLS and Earth exploration systems were larger or larger than NASA’s budget for those elements.
Agency administrator Jim Bridenstine told the National Space Council on December 9 that NASA is likely to request a full budget request from HLS to set a time limit for the moon landing on time. “Ultimately, if we don’t get $ 3.3 billion, it’s getting harder and harder,” he said.
A timely landing on the Moon will also depend on NASA completing all technological tests for connected lunar systems, such as new space suits to protect astronauts on the lunar surface. Earlier this month, the agency put 18 astronauts shortlisted for missions to the moon; additionally, The Canadian Space Agency has promised that one of the four astronauts will join the preparatory mission of the lunar orbit with the crew of Artemis 2 scheduled for 2023.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.