SLS launch pad undergoes water tests in preparation for EM-1
NASA conducted a wet flow test at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The test helped validate a system designed to protect NASA’s new super-heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). It also served to confirm it is ready to support the launch vehicle’s first flight, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), currently slated to take place in 2019.
An estimated 450,000 U.S. gallons (1,703,435 liters) of water was released during this test. This provided a critical test of the site’s new piping and valves, the iconic flame trench, flame director nozzles, as well as the mobile launcher interface risers.
By all appearances, the test provided quite a show, with water soaring an estimated 100 feet (30 meters) into the Florida sky above the surface of the pad.
Rather than take anything to extremes during the roughly 20-second test, it was carried out to provide a “baseline” of how the Ignition Overpressure/Sound Suppression system works. Although not commonly known, rather than flame, it is actually the sound of a rocket launch that poses the greater risk to the rocket. The immense acoustic pressures, as well as heat, encountered when the SLS’ four RS-25 rocket engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters are activated at liftoff will require huge quantities of water to suppress.
Video courtesy of NASA
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.