SLS liquid hydrogen tank test article placed on test stand
Even though much of the U.S. space agency is currently furloughed due to the ongoing partial U.S. government shutdown, some work is still being done on NASA’s most important programs, including the Space Launch System, which could fly as early as 2020.
According to the U.S. space agency, the largest piece of structural test hardware for the SLS — the 149-foot (45-meter) tall liquid hydrogen tank for the core stage — was loaded onto the 215-foot (66-meter) tall Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on Jan. 14, 2019.
“The liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit,” a NASA news release reads.
The full core stage of SLS, which includes a liquid oxygen tank, will measure 212 feet (65 meters) tall and have a diameter of 27.6 feet (8.4 meters). Together they will feed four RS-25 engines at the base of the rocket to produce 1.6 million pounds (7,440 kilonewtons) of thrust.
NASA said dozens of hydraulic cylinders in Test Stand 4693 will “push and pull the tank,” to subject it to stresses the core stage is expected to see during launch.
As of right now, the first test flight — the uncrewed Exploration Mission 1 — is expected sometime in mid-2020. It will see an Orion spacecraft fly around the moon before coming back to Earth for a splashdown in the Ocean.
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.