Spaceflight Insider

Boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System complete avionics test

A full-scale, test version of the booster for NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System,. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

A full-scale, test version of the booster for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

The solid rocket boosters that will power NASA‘s new Space Launch System super-heavy-lift rocket away from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B took another step toward flight today when Orbital ATK announced that the avionics system which will control the new boosters has completed its qualification testing.

NASA and Orbital ATK successfully completed the qualification phase of the five-segment solid rocket boosters which will be used on the first flights of NASA's new super heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket which will conduct its first test flight in 2019. Photo Credit: Mark Usciak / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA and Orbital ATK successfully completed the qualification phase of the five-segment solid rocket boosters which will be used on the first flights of NASA’s new super-heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket which will conduct its first test flight in 2019. Photo Credit: Mark Usciak / SpaceFlight Insider

In order to meet the demanding human-rated requirements set by NASA, the avionics system was put through a rigorous series of tests that verified the system was fully capable of performing in normal and abnormal flight conditions.

The avionics system controls the boosters through all stages of their firings starting with the ignition of the boosters. The system then controls the boosters’ steering while working with the SLS flight computers that are controlling the flight, and culminates its operations by initiating separation after the boosters have completed their burn. In addition, the system is responsible for termination of the flight in the event of an abnormality during launch.

Successful completion of the testing means that the new avionics system is now qualified as meeting NASA’s human-rating requirements, which provide a level of redundancy to ensure a safe flight environment.

Included in today’s press release was a statement from Jeff Foote, Vice President of NASA Programs for Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division: “Completion of booster avionics system qualification is a significant step forward in supporting overall vehicle qualification and launch of the first flight of SLS – Exploration Mission-1. We are proud of this accomplishment and look forward to completing full certification of the booster later this year.”

At 177 feet (54 meters) in length and 12 feet (3.7 meters) in diameter, the new 5-segment solid rocket boosters will be the largest and most powerful boosters flown to date.

Orbital ATK had previously performed two qualification tests of their new 5-segment solid boosters. The tests simulated the entire firing of the booster as it will happen during an actual launch. Following the second successful test, the boosters hardware was qualified for flight. The twin boosters will provide 7.2 million pounds-force (32 MN) of thrust powering the new Space Launch System through its first 2 minutes of flight.

Exploration Mission-1, also known as EM-1, is currently scheduled for early 2019. EM-1 will be an unmanned flight around the Moon to thoroughly test all of the SLS and Orion spacecraft systems prior to manned flights. Orbital ATK is well into building the first boosters to be used on that test flight.

“Our SLS booster production is proceeding on schedule, with all 10 of the EM-1 booster segments loaded with propellant and in final assembly and testing,” Jeff Foote, Orbital ATK’s Vice President of NASA Programs told SpaceFlight Insider.

 

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Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

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