Spaceflight Insider

Video: SFI highlights of QM-2 static test fire

NASA and Orbital ATK successfully completed the qualification phase of the five-segment solid rocket boosters that 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 late in 2018.

The QM-2 booster burned for about two minutes and six seconds. (Click to enlarge) Photo Credit: Mark Usciak / SpaceFlight Insider

PROMONTORY, Utah — On Tuesday, June 28, NASA and Orbital ATK conducted a static test fire of the second five-segment Qualification Motor (QM-2) in order to validate a lower-temperature limit for the booster design planned to help propel the space agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) spaceward. SpaceFlight Insider was there to capture the bright and loud moment.

The test occurred at 9:05 a.m. MDT (15:05 GMT). Over the previous month, the solid rocket booster was cooled down to an internal temperature of just 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius). This was to test the lower-end temperature limit of the booster’s design.

While this was the second of the qualification motors, it was the fifth test firing of the five-segment booster design overall. Between 2009 and 2011, three Demonstration Motors (DM) were tested. After the results of the tests came in, NASA ordered then-ATK to perform a second series of tests culminating in QM-1 and QM-2. The former occurred in March 2015 and tested the booster at an internal temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius)—the upper-temperature limit.

The next time this booster design will fire will be in 2018 as part of a pair strapped to either the side of the core of NASA’s giant SLS. Together, the two boosters will produce 7.2 million pounds (32 MN) of thrust at liftoff and help send an uncrewed Orion capsule toward the Moon.

Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider


Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

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