NASA plans Artemis 1 SLS tanking test on Wednesday
After completing repair work on a hydrogen feed line quick disconnect seal for the Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket, NASA looks to perform a cryogenic loading test on the vehicle.
The cryogenic loading test is expected to take place Sept. 21, which is expected to verify the repairs and demonstrate modified tanking procedures for both the SLS core stage and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage. The agency said Orion and the two solid rocket boosters will not be powered up and there won’t be any flight termination system, communications or other systems testing.
“So, basically really looking primarily at the cryo performance and cryo demonstration,” said Jeremy Parsons, deputy manager for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program at Kennedy Space Center. “No Range will be required during this test. A number of our test objectives are much simpler there because we’re really kind of focusing on that.”
These repairs and tests come more than two weeks after a scrubbed second launch attempt following a large hydrogen leak detected on the quick disconnect for the core stage’s liquid hydrogen fuel feed line. This was located on the tail surface mast umbilical at the base of the mobile launcher.
According to NASA, two seals were replaced and tests were conducted at ambient conditions to ensure a tight bond between the rocket- and ground-side plates. What will come next, weather pending, is a tanking test.
NASA expects to give a “go” for fueling the SLS rocket at 7 a.m. EDT (11:00 UTC) Wednesday. The agency said the test will start just before 1 p.m. EDT (17:00 UTC) and end by about 3 p.m. EDT (19:00 UTC) and not go into the terminal countdown which starts at T-minus 10 minutes.
Other objectives include getting into the engine bleed test for the four RS-25 engines at the base of the core stage, something that ultimately caused a scrub during the Aug. 29 launch attempt.
If the test goes well, the agency would still need to get a flight termination system battery test waiver from the Eastern Range, a decision of which isn’t expected until after the tanking test.
Should NASA get the waiver, it is hoping to target a launch no earlier than a 70-minute window that opens at 11:37 EDT (15:37 UTC) Sept. 27. The agency is looking at a backup launch date on Oct. 2.
After that, however, Artemis 1 would come into conflict with the Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station, which would have priority on the Range.
The current launch window ends Oct. 4 and opens again between Oct. 17 and Oct. 31.
Artemis 1 is set to launch from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’ll be the first integrated flight test of SLS and Orion and will involve sending the uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a multi-week trip around the Moon.
This mission will pave the way for the first crewed flight of SLS and Orion, currently expected to be Artemis 2 in 2024, which will see three NASA astronauts and one Canadian astronaut sent on a free-return trajectory around the Moon.
Video courtesy of NASA
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.