After two weeks of prep work on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, NASA is ready to test its massive new rocket and complex plumbing system. This will be the last major rehearsal before the space agency announces that after 11 long years and tens of billions of dollars in development costs, the Space Launch System is finally ready to fly.
The “wet dress rehearsal” is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET (21:00 UTC) on Friday, when launch control teams arrive at the launch control center console. At this point, engineers and technicians will begin operating the Orion spacecraft and the rocket itself. But the real action won’t happen until Sunday.
At about 6 a.m. ET, a team of NASA and launch vehicle contractors will enter the countdown to “launch day”; Shortly thereafter, they will begin feeding the rocket’s primary stage with liquid oxygen. The liquid hydrogen loading will start after about an hour. Published by NASA Tentative schedule With the main sights on its website.
After a series of reservations, NASA plans to resume the launch countdown at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday and continue until about T-10 seconds, with the test ending before igniting the rocket’s four main engines, which previously powered NASA’s space shuttle. If all goes well, the test will end at about 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Two days or a delay?
NASA officials said they will brief the media on the test results on Monday. Of course, this assumes that the wet rehearsal test is completed in a couple of days. There are no guarantees for this, as NASA will be working with a complex rocket and complex ground equipment and will handle 700,000 gallons of ultra-cold liquid. It will be a major test of all of these systems. When NASA conducted a “countdown demo test” of the Saturn 5 rocket for the first time in 1967, with Apollo 4 missionthere were all kinds of problems, the test stretched to 17 days.
“This is the first time, and it’s a test,” he said. Charlie Blackwell Thompson, Artemis launch director. “I toI’m sure we’re going through things, we’ll learn, for sure if we have any kind of issues that we have to tackle that could drag the schedule. I think two days is a reasonable amount of time.”
She said that if the test went into fuel loading and there was a problem to be addressed, NASA would have to stop while supplies of liquid oxygen and hydrogen were replenished. Depending on how often this test takes place, this could be a delay of one to four days.
NASA has the advantage that it has previously fed the SLS rocket’s primary stage on several occasions in the process A series of hot fire tests Over a year ago at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. But Florida’s land systems haven’t been tested.
How will it go?
Is everything all right? During a call with reporters on Tuesday, senior NASA officials appeared fairly confident that the wetsuit test would go smoothly. However, they acknowledged that this was the first time that the entire rocket and spacecraft had been handled and refueled in concert with ground systems and comprehensive software to manage it all. So yes, they admitted, things can go wrong.
About a week after the test was completed, NASA officials said they expect to be able to set a launch date for the Artemis 1 mission, which will fly an unmanned Orion spacecraft around the moon. At present, this test flight will not take place before June.
The SLS rocket uses a number of systems from the Space Shuttle. The rocket’s main RS-25 engines flew on the shuttle in orbit. Solid rocket boosters are derived from the Shuttle. Wayne Hill, a former NASA flight administrator who also led the shuttle program, told Ars he expects some problems to arise during testing, given the extensive new tubes, pumps and valves that manage all of the coolant fuel being loaded onto the SLS rocket. The system may also have some purge gas issues, electrical issues, or poor wireless connectivity. The purpose of this test is to find these defects.
“I would be really surprised, and in a fun way, if the testing went without a hitch,” Hill said. “At the same time, while I do expect some delays and possibly a retest, I don’t really expect a long delay or finding a major problem that requires months of rework.”
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