NASA will fire up its huge Artemis moon rocket today: How to watch

March 18, 2021 0 By boss

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slsteststand

The latest SLS “Green Run” tests are taking place at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.


NASA

NASA wants to escort humans back to the moon. The agency has been aiming for an uncrewed Artemis I around-the-moon mission later in 2021, but it needs to put its moon rocket through its paces here on Earth first. NASA is gearing up for a second try at a critical hot-fire test of its Space Launch System.

NASA will livestream the redo test on Thursday. The two-hour test window opens at noon PT, but the live coverage will kick off about 30 minutes ahead of that window.

In case you need a reason to tune in, here’s NASA’s description: “On test day, engineers will power up all the core stage systems, load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic, or supercold, propellant into the tanks, and fire the rocket’s four RS-25 engines at the same time to simulate the stage’s operation during launch, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust.”  

The first attempt at the hot-fire in mid-January didn’t go as planned, as the rocket shut down just over a minute into what should have been an eight-minute test.   

In late January, NASA said it planned to conduct a second hot-fire. The do-over test was originally targeted for late February, but was delayed after engineers discovered a valve — part of a system that supplies liquid oxygen to an engine — wasn’t working properly. The SLS team troubleshot the issue and repaired the valve.

The hot-fire is the final part of the “Green Run” series of tests designed to check out the core stage of SLS before it actually launches from Earth. NASA refers to the core stage as “the backbone of the SLS rocket.” 

Hot-fires are dramatic affairs that are meant to simulate the rigor of launch conditions. While the SLS core stage shut down safely during the test at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, it shut down way too early. 

“After analyzing initial data, the team determined that the shutdown after firing the engines for 67.2-seconds on Jan. 16 was triggered by test parameters that were intentionally conservative to ensure the safety of the core stage during the test,” NASA said in a statement Jan. 19. The agency will aim to make it to eight minutes during the do-over. 

NASA reported the core stage, its engines and the test stand were all in “excellent condition” with no major repairs needed before the next attempt. 

While Artemis I won’t have humans on board, later SLS missions will be responsible for safely escorting astronauts into space. “All SLS rockets use the same core stage design, NASA said, “so a second Green Run hot-fire will reduce risk for not only Artemis I, but also for all future SLS missions.”

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