NASA studying cause of early end to NASA moon rocket test-firing – Spaceflight Now

Throughout advancement of the Saturn 5 moon rocket and the space shuttle bus, NASA fired test articles at Stennis to confirm the propulsion system design.” There was some discussion around an “FID” on Engine 4, which is our terms for a Failure Identification, soon followed by an MCF, which is a Major Component Failure,” stated John Honeycutt, NASAs SLS program supervisor, in a press conference a couple of hours after the test. Any specification that went awry on the engine could send out that Failure ID.”
Credit: NASAThe engines shut down around a minute into the test program, around the very same time the RS-25s were configured to throttle back to 95% thrust before powering back up to full power at 109% of rated performance. At the very same time, the engines were supposed to be rotated utilizing hydraulic gimbals.

The first SLS test flight, known as Artemis 1, will release an Orion spacecraft to orbit the moon without astronauts. A 2nd SLS/Orion flight around the moon in the 2023 timeframe will have 3 astronauts and a Canadian team member.
The Trump administrations goal of a human landing at the moons south pole by the end of 2024 is quickly fading. The timeline was aggressive from the minute Vice President Mike Pence announced the 2024 moon landing objective in 2019. Congress has actually not appropriated the funds NASA stated it required to develop human-rated lunar landers to satisfy the schedule, raising more doubts about the 2024 deadline.
Space policy experts believe the Biden administration is unlikely to keep the 2024 schedule goal for a lunar landing, but might pursue a slower effort to get U.S. astronauts back to the moon.
The Space Launch System has been consistently delayed since the programs announcement in 2011, missing targets for its debut in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. NASA invested more than $18 billion on the SLS program from 2011 through Sept. 30, 2020.
” This is a program that is crucial to the United States of America, its important for our management in the world, its essential for us to go to the moon, and to go quickly,” Bridenstine said Saturday, including that the function for the Artemis program surpasses science.
” Its about a tool of diplomacy. Its about American management. Its about exploration,” he said.
Getting all four RS-25 engines to fire simultaneously was “a win in itself,” Bridenstine said. The engines flew three-at-a-time on the space shuttle.
During advancement of the Saturn 5 moon rocket and the space shuttle, NASA fired test articles at Stennis to confirm the propulsion system design. In order to save cash, the very first full-up SLS core stage serves as both a test post and a flight unit. NASA authorities stated they are being extra cautious with the stage since it is eventually meant to fly.
” This is not a failure,” Bridenstine said. “This is a test … Were going to make modifications, and were going to fly to the moon.”
Based upon an analysis of the video and audio aired on NASA TV, the first sign of difficulty throughout the shortened SLS hot fire test happened 50 seconds after engine ignition, when an engineer on the test group declared an “MCF” or a “Major Component Failure” on Engine No. 4.
” Copy that, however were still running, weve still got four great engines, right?” the test conductor replied on a communications net.
” Yeah, copy that,” a member of the test group stated.
Soon after the MCF call, about 67 seconds after engine start, video revealed the core stage engines seeming in a shutdown series. A spoken confirmation of the engine shutdown came a couple of seconds later from a member of the test group.
” There was some discussion around an “FID” on Engine 4, which is our terminology for a Failure Identification, quickly followed by an MCF, which is a Major Component Failure,” stated John Honeycutt, NASAs SLS program supervisor, in an interview a couple of hours after the test. “I do not know far more about that than you do at this point in time. Any specification that went awry on the engine might send that Failure ID.”
Artists idea of the Space Launch System introducing with NASAs Orion spacecraft. Credit: NASAThe engines closed down around a minute into the test program, around the same time the RS-25s were programmed to throttle back to 95% thrust before powering back up to complete power at 109% of ranked performance. At the same time, the engines were expected to be swiveled using hydraulic gimbals.
” So theres a great deal of dynamics going on at that point in time,” Honeycutt said. “We did see a little bit of a flash coming from around the user interface of the thermal security blanket on Engine 4 at the time we started the gimbal, (or) thereabouts.
” At that point in time … the engine controller sent the data to the core phase controller to shut the vehicle down,” Honeycutt stated. “The group achieved a lot today, we discovered a lot about the automobile, we got the car packed, we got our pressurization system wrung out, we got the engines conditioned, and got roughly 60 seconds of time on the RS-25s.”
John Shannon, Boeings SLS program supervisor, stated before the test-firing groups wished to get at least 250 seconds of run time on the core stage before proceeding from the hot fire. By that point in the test, the engines would have throttled down and powered back up to complete thrust and finished two gimbal profiles, including a sweep at about T+ plus 2 minutes, 30 seconds, to inspect the structural reaction to the engine motions.
” We have stated all along that we wish to get to a minimum of 250 seconds, however I think we need to do our due diligence and go take a look at the data we collected to ensure that weve got an excellent plan moving forward,” Honeycutt stated.
Bridenstine said Saturday it was prematurely to understand for sure whether engineers will need to carry out another core stage hot fire test, or whether the early engine shutdown is most likely to postpone the first SLS test launch, called Artemis 1 the objective, into 2022.
” It depends what the abnormality was, and how tough its going to be to fix it,” Bridenstine said. “And weve got a lot to discover to figure that out. I think it really well could be that its something thats quickly fixable, and we could feel positive going down to the Cape and then staying on schedule. Its also true that we might find a challenge thats going to take more time.”
NASA might have shipped the SLS core stage to the Kennedy Space Center before the end of February if Saturdays test-firing went perfectly, and moved the stage into place for stacking with two solid rocket boosters, an upper stage, and the Orion spacecraft. Presuming NASA authorities choose to renovate the hot fire test, February is the earliest another test-firing might occur.
It takes 3 to four weeks to dry the RS-25 engines, perform examinations, and all set the core phase for a second hot fire test, assuming managers choose to opt for another test-firing, Honeycutt stated. That turn-around time does not consider for how long it might take to finish any repair work to repair the issue that caused the premature end to Saturdays hot fire test.
Each of the four RS-25 engines that fired Saturday flew on NASAs area shuttle fleet. The engines introduced on 21 shuttle missions as far back as 1998.
If engineers require to replace one of the engines on the first SLS core stage, NASA has spare RS-25s available. Landing crew at Stennis might switch engines with the rocket installed on the test stand, officials stated.
” Weve got to totally understand the problem, and do an assessment of the core stage as well as the engines to make sure we comprehend the problem and what requires to be fixed or repaired, if we require to,” Honeycutt said Saturday night.
The only damage to the rocket observed after Saturdays test-firing was on the thermal blanket near Engine No. 4, where groups observed the flash just before engine shutdown, Honeycutt said.
Asked if any of the information analyzed up until now suggest engineers need to make any major modifications to the core stage, Honeycutt said: “What Ive seen up until now about the performance of the hardware during the damp gown practice sessions that weve had, throughout the hot fire today, and the minimal amount of images Ive been able to see up until now, I do not believe were looking at a substantial style modification.”
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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Heres a replay of the first hotfire test of the Space Launch System core phase, which was cut short a little more than a minute into a prepared eight-minute shooting.
The rocket and engines securely shut down. NASA plans a post-test media briefing tonight.https:// t.co/ B639YAgQec pic.twitter.com/FXHuxAV7ok
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) January 16, 2021

The Space Launch Systems 4 RS-25 engines fire throughout an abbreviated Green Run test Saturday. Credit: NASAA critical test-firing of NASAs Space Launch System moon rocket in Mississippi ended just 67 seconds after it began Saturday, well except a planned eight-minute burn that was supposed to clear the method for the space firm to finally ship the rockets core stage to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch preparations.
The SLS core stage, developed by Boeing, lit its 4 Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines for the first time at 5:27 p.m. EST (4:27 p.m. CST; 2227 GMT) Saturday for a burn that was anticipated to last more than 8 minutes, the culmination of a year-long series of checkouts at the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi.
Attached to the massive B-2 test stand at Stennis, the 212-foot-tall (98-meter) SLS core phase throttled up to full power after the 4 primary engines lit at 120-millisecond periods.
The engines, leftovers from the space shuttle program, developed up to 1.6 million pounds of thrust, making Saturdays hot fire test the most effective rocket shooting at the Stennis Space Center given that NASA tested the Apollo-era Saturn 5 moon rocket on the exact same stand in the 1960s.
But after rumbling to life and producing a ground-shaking thunder for a bit more than a minute, the RS-25 engines cut off on command of the rockets on-board computer system, which found an undefined fault in among the powerplants.
Engineers were tracing the cause of the premature engine shutdown Saturday night, but NASA officials had few details on what may have activated the early end to the test-firing.
” I know not everyone is feeling as pleased as we otherwise could since we wanted to get 8 minutes of a hot fire, and we overcame a minute,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Prior to the test-firing Saturday, NASA officials stated preparations were on track for the very first test flight of the Space Launch System at the end of 2021. It was not right away how the premature shutdown of the SLS engines Saturday might impact that schedule, although it will certainly add more danger to it.
” We got lots of information that were going to go through, and be able to sort through, and get to a point where we can make a decision regarding whether or not releasing in 2021 is a possibility or not,” Bridenstine stated. “While today was not everything we hoped it would be, this was an essential day.”
The outbound NASA chief, who will leave his post Wednesday with the end of the Trump administration, said engineers collected crucial information on the performance of the rocket regardless of the cutoff of the engines. The Space Launch System is a significant piece of NASAs Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon for the very first time because 1972.
The SLS will release NASAs Orion team pill to send out astronauts to the area of the moon, NASA plans to construct a mini-space station to serve as a research outpost and waypoint for crews taking a trip between Earth and the lunar surface area. The Orion spacecraft will link up with a descent craft in lunar orbit, where astronauts will float into the lander to head for the moons surface.

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