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Dynetics to build SLS universal stage adapter

Dynetics, Inc. is to build the universal stage adapter for NASA's SLS rocket

Dynetics, Inc. is to build the universal stage adapter for NASA’s SLS rocket. Image Credit: NASA

NASA has announced that the applied science and information technology company Dynetics, Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama, has been awarded a $221.7 million prime contract to develop and build a universal stage adapter (USA) for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The adapter will serve to connect NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the exploration upper stage (EUS) of the Block 1B Crew variant of the SLS while also providing additional cargo space for the rocket. The partnership is with the Glenn Research Center in Ohio and will see Space Coast-based Craig Technologies also contribute to the component.

Dynetics will design, develop, test, evaluate, produce, and deliver the first universal stage adapter for the second integrated mission Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) of the SLS and Orion. The mission will be the first test flight with crew aboard NASA’s new deep space exploration systems. The SLS will have three different launch blocks. USA and EUS will be placed on top of the SLS core stage and solid rocket boosters for the Block 1B and other future configurations.

“We are extremely proud to be selected as the prime contractor for the NASA Space Launch System’s Universal Stage Adapter. This contract will build on Dynetics’ expertise in the space industry which includes developing low-cost, full-scale advanced booster cryogenic liquid oxygen demonstration tank and manufacturing, designing and testing propulsion components and systems for the SLS core and upper stages,” said Robert Wright, Dynetics program manager.

Universal Stage Adapter on SLS Block 1B Crew. Artist's rendering of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) evolution: SLS Block 1 Crew, Block 1B Crew, Block 1B Cargo, and Block 2 Cargo.

An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) evolution: SLS Block 1 Crew, Block 1B Crew, Block 1B Cargo, and Block 2 Cargo. Image Credit: NASA

Dynetics will also coordinate their plans with RUAG Space USA, ZIN Technologies, Dynamics Concepts, Inc., Craig Technologies, Tuskegee University and Paragon Tec. Wright said that the partnerships will “bring vast levels of experience and knowledge together” while developing flight hardware for deep space missions.

The contract performance period will be 11 years, which includes a four-year base period that begins on August 1, allowing NASA to order up to six additional adaptors for missions beyond EM-2.

Other payloads such as habitats, deep-space exploration spacecraft, and CubeSats can be housed inside the USA.

The adapter will stand 32.4 feet (9.9 meters) tall and will measure 27.6 feet (8.4 meters) in diameter at its largest point. It will provide environmental control to payloads during ground operations, launch, and ascent while also accommodating the electrical and communications between the EUS and Orion. The maximum payload internal volume area will be up to 10,100 cubic feet (286 m3).

The focus of the EM-2 mission surrounds the EUS and four RL-10 engines that will propel Orion into a trans-lunar injection, which is a higher elliptical orbit around Earth. Another orbit will take place between 500 and 19,000 nautical miles (926 km to 35,188 km) above Earth. Once the orbits are completed, the EUS will separate from the Orion spacecraft, and the payload(s) selected for the mission in the USA will be released. The payloads will then fly on their own and conduct their individual missions.

After the USA is assembled and tested, it will be delivered to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The USA will travel by barge from Decatur, Alabama, down the Tennessee River and Tombigbee Waterway to the Gulf of Mexico and then toward south Florida to Kennedy Space Center.

Dynetics is also the subcontractor for manufacturing and transportation for the SLS core stage pathfinder vehicle.

According to Dynetics, the SLS Block 1B rocket with the adapter is scheduled to launch sometime in the early 2020s.

Block 1B Crew expanded view showing the Universal Stage Adapter position.

An expanded view of the 70-metric-ton Block 1B Crew showing the Universal Stage Adapter position on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Image Credit: NASA



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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