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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

NASA Asks American Aerospace Companies to Offer Detailed Ideas for Future Lunar Lander

NASA called the request for input a "major step" forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis

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NASA, American, Aerospace
FILE - NASA's Space Launch System mobile launcher rolls on a crawler-transporter for months of testing before the launch of Artemis 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 27, 2019. VOA

U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024, an American objective that was reconfirmed on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

NASA called the request for input a “major step” forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis — who in Greek mythology was Apollo’s twin sister.

The space agency published documents explaining in detail what it is looking for in a lunar lander that will bring the two astronauts, one a woman, to the moon’s south pole, where they will stay for six-and-a-half days.

In May, 11 companies including sector mainstays Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were picked to lead feasibility studies and develop prototypes by November. Also on the list were newcomers such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

NASA, American, Aerospace
FILE – Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface, July 20, 1969. VOA

That same month, Blue Origin unveiled its lander project, Blue Moon.

Now, NASA has provided dozens of pages of specifications that must be met in terms of onboard electronics, communications, and spacesuits.

Any company can reply, not just the 11 shortlisted earlier in the year.

“On the heels of the 50th Anniversary of #Apollo11, we’ve just issued a draft solicitation asking US companies to help us develop the 21st century human landing system that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

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Behind schedule

After receiving the responses, NASA is expected to make a decision in a matter of months as to which company will build the lander and how.

It will be the equivalent of the lunar module that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969.

NASA, American, Aerospace
U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024. Pixabay

One important difference will be that the lander will berth at a mini moon-orbiting space station, called Gateway, as a kind of port between Earth and the moon. That will allow for the lander to be reused and refueled.

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For now, the Artemis mission is behind schedule, mainly due to delays in the construction of the huge, single-use Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is primarily being made by Boeing. (VOA)