Spaceflight Insider

SLS one step closer to flight with successful completion of USA design review

NASA's Space Launch System launch concept

NASA is hoping to conduct the first flight of SLS in 2019. Image Credit: NASA

Dynetics has announced the completion of the universal stage adapter’s (USA) preliminary design review for NASA’s new SLS rocket designed to send humans to the Moon and possible Mars. The adapter is critical for carrying additional cargo during Exploration Mission 2, the first planned crewed flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

Dynetics issued a press release stating that it has designed hardware specifically for the use in future SLS configurations that could be able to send up to 81,000 lbs. (37 metric tons) to the Moon.

“The USA is a critical piece of hardware for the SLS Block 1B configuration. It provides extra space for large cargos to be flown on the same mission that NASA is flying Orion and astronauts. We are nailing down the preliminary design now so we can proceed to final design and production,” said Robert Wright, Dynetics USA project manager via the release.

The Space Launch System is designed to be capable of sending the Orion spacecraft, astronauts, and large cargo to the Moon during a single mission. Orion is designed to sustain a four-person crew up to three weeks on missions beyond low-Earth orbit. The USA is considered to be key to carrying large payloads such as habitats, landers and scientific equipment on the SLS.

The universal stage adapter measures in at about 32-feet tall and 27-feet long in diameter. If everything goes as it is currently planned, the USA will be used to integrate the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) and Payload Adapter (PLA) needed for carrying payloads along with Orion, while supplying structural, electrical, and communication paths.

“This is a major accomplishment, not only for Dynetics, but for our partners – RUAG Space, ZIN Technologies, Craig Technologies, DCI, Paragon Tec, Tuskegee University and Systima. We were awarded this contract in June 2017 and to move this quickly through PDR is a true testament to the leadership and engineering prowess that makes up this group. I could not be prouder of our team,” Wright added.

A team of NASA and industry experts analyzed documents and data on thermal environments, buckling, loads, and other system and subsystem hardware over the course of about four weeks. This allowed the team to determine whether-or-not the hardware and its design in future construction was able to support mission requirements. The critical design review is currently scheduled to take place in September of 2019.

Once these reviews are completed, the USA will be manufactured at Dynetics facilities located in Huntsville and Decatur and at the RUAG Space USA facility in Decatur. Qualification testing is slated to be performed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. After integration and assembly, it will be delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida by barge to prepare for launch.





Heather Smith's fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as The Spaceflight Group’s coordinator for the organization’s social media efforts.

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