NASA Administrator views progress of new Marshall Center test stand
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — On Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, astronaut Butch Wilmore, members of the media (including SpaceFlight Insider), and others gathered at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to view progress on the new Space Launch System (SLS) core stage liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank test stand under construction in the Center’s historic West Test Area.
“We’re on a journey to Mars,” said Todd May, acting MSFC Director. “If you don’t believe us, just look at what you see back here behind us today. This is a tangible example of real progress toward building the most powerful rocket to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit and out into deep space once again – something we haven’t done in over 40 years.”
The new stand is scheduled for completion in late 2016 and will utilize hydraulic cylinders to push, pull, bend, and twist the LH2 tank (filled with liquid nitrogen (N2) for testing) – subjecting it to the same loads and stresses expected during launch and flight.
LEFT: MSFC Test Stand 4693 under construction. RIGHT: Artist’s concept of completed test stand containing SLS core stage LH2 tank. Photo Credits: Scott Johnson / SpaceFlight Insider
Currently, the stand’s two steel truss towers rise to a height of 184 feet (56 meters) – with 18 of 21 levels erected. When completed, the stand’s total height will be 215 feet (65.5 meters).
“You can talk about drawings, you can talk about anything you want to, but what you’re looking at today is real-life hardware,” stated Bolden. He went on to explain that this very hardware is an indicator that NASA has “start[ed] out on a journey to Mars that’s going to take us back to the lunar vicinity and then on to Mars in the 2030s.”
The first SLS launch, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), an uncrewed test flight of the Orion capsule around the Moon, is scheduled for 2018. The first crewed flight, Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2), is scheduled for no later than 2023.
Click here for more photos from the Dec. 14, 2015, event.
Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.