RS-25 completes successful second test fire of 2018
On Feb. 1, 2018, a team of engineers at NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services engineers and operators test-fired the RS-25 engine conducted a test firing at the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
With this test fire, all four of the RS-25 engines which will be used in the Space Launch System (SLS) have been tested for the second flight of the new rocket.
“We are thrilled to mark another important step toward humankind’s first foray beyond low Earth orbit since 1972,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president via a company-issued release.
The test firing occurred at Stennis’ A-1 test stand. Flight controller ECU-11 was installed on the RS-25 engine for the test, and engine E0528 was fired under conditions that duplicated an actual launch. The RS-25 engines are actually modified Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs), and a major part of the modification is the flight controller, which allows the engine to communicate with the SLS rocket, monitoring and communicating engine operation and the status of its internal functioning.
During a typical test, the engine is throttled to various test levels in order to duplicate different specific scenarios that occur during a launch. This allows engineers to compile data on the engine’s performance.
RS-25 flight controllers have already been installed on the engines that will fly on the SLS core stage for Exploration Mission 1, the mission that will fly the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle on an unscrewed flight beyond the Moon.
If all goes as planned, Exploration Mission 2 will carry humans beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for the first time since 1972.
The Feb. 1 test included a 3D-printed pogo accumulator assembly. It was the third test of the 3D-printed component. NASA and private industry have been utilizing 3D printing, both on the International Space Station and in experimental satellites, to reduce construction costs, as well as to open up new methods of space construction.
Now that all of the four RS-25 engines have been test fired, the core stage for the first SLS mission is next to be tested at Stennis. In that test, all four engines will be fired simultaneously.
At launch, the SLS is designed to utilize its RS-25 engines and two solid rocket boosters (produced by Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK), producing an estimated total 8 million pounds of thrust.
Exploration Mission 1 is currently scheduled to lift of from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B on Sept. 5, 2018. With Exploration Mission 2 is slated to take place sometime in 2022 and is supposed to be the first time that astronauts leave somewhere for other than low-Earth orbit, in this case lunar orbit, for the first time since Dec. 1972’s Apollo 17 mission.
“This is the third of four scheduled tests to confirm not only the functional performance of the Pogo, but also to verify the structural margins and capabilities,” said Dan Adamski, Aerojet Rocketdyne director for the RS-25 program. “All the data gathered to date has matched up very well with our predictions.”
Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.