Wednesday April 24, 2019
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NASA’s SLS Rocket Gets Major Hardware Boost

These are the computers that will control the rocket as it soars off the pad for Exploration Mission-1

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NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

Engineers have now assembled the first major piece of core stage hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket which is designed to herald a new era of exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, launching crew and cargo on deep space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

It now is ready to be joined with other hardware for Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The 212-foot-tall core stage, referred to as the “backbone” of the rocket by NASA, will contain the SLS rocket’s four RS-25 rocket engines, propellant tanks, flight computers and much more.

Though the smallest part of the core stage, the forward skirt will serve two critical roles. It will connect the upper part of the rocket to the core stage and house many of the flight computers, or avionics.

“Completion of the core stage forward skirt is a major step in NASA’s progress to the launch pad,” said Deborah Bagdigian, lead manager for the forward skirt at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

NASA
It now is ready to be joined with other hardware for Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. (IANS)

“We’re putting into practice the steps and processes needed to assemble the largest rocket stage ever built. With the forward skirt, we are improving and refining how we’ll conduct final assembly of the rest of the rocket,” Bagdigian said.

As part of forward skirt testing, the flight computers came to life for the first time as NASA engineers tested critical avionic systems that will control the rocket’s flight.

Located throughout the core stage, the avionics are the rocket’s “brains,” controlling navigation and communication during launch and flight.

It is critical that each of the avionics units is installed correctly, work as expected and communicate with each other and other components, including the Orion spacecraft and ground support systems.

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“It was amazing to see the computers come to life for the first time,” said Lisa Espy, lead test engineer for SLS core stage avionics.

“These are the computers that will control the rocket as it soars off the pad for Exploration Mission-1,” Espy added. (IANS)

Next Story

Spacecraft Test Runs into Serious Problems, Smoke All Over SpaceX in Florida

"Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test"

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spaceX
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

Thick plumes of smoke rose over a SpaceX facility in Florida during a test fire of a Crew Dragon spacecraft and the issue was serious, it could derail plans to fly astronauts aboard the capsule later this year, the media reported.

SpaceX, which was founded by billionaire businessman Elon Musk in 2002, said the craft was undergoing a “series of engine tests” at a facility in Cape Canaveral on Saturday, and something went wrong during the final stretch, CNN reported.

SpaceX will work with NASA to determine what caused the issue. No injuries were reported.

orbit
The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules. Pixabay

“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” SpaceX said in a statement.

Crew Dragon is already overdue and more delays could make things tricky for NASA.

It was scheduled to conduct a key test of its emergency abort system in June. And its first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, was slated for July, though NASA recently said that timeline was under review.

space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules.

NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts.

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SpaceX and Boeing, which is building a vehicle called Starliner, were awarded contracts worth up to $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, in 2014. Both capsules were supposed to start flying in 2017, but they have been hampered with delays.

Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. (IANS)