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Video: Time lapse of SLS test stand construction

Test Stand 4697

With major construction complete on Test Stand 4697, engineers will now begin to install special test equipment to prepare the stand for testing the liquid oxygen tank of the Space Launch System’s core stage. Photo Credit: Fred Deaton / NASA

With pieces of the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) now being built, the U.S. space agency will need to test them on special stands. Major construction of the first of these test stands was recently completed this month (September).

Test Stand 4697 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will test the 196,000-gallon (741,941 liters) cryogenic liquid oxygen tank to the forces it will see during launch. The first tests will begin in summer 2017.

“The forces the tank will experience in the test stand are as close as you can get on Earth to what the tank will experience on its way to space,” said Scott Chartier, primary test engineer over the stand for Marshall’s propulsion systems test branch. “During the series of tests, the tank will endure up to nine million pounds of shear or ‘twist’ loads.”

The stand is shaped like an “L” and is 85 feet (26 meters) tall. When the 28-foot (8.5-meter) wide, 70-foot (21.3-meter) tall test tank arrives at the stand, it will be lifted and placed on three cage-like pedestals over the stand’s foundation.

As major construction is complete, the next step will be for engineers to install fluid transfer and pressurization systems, hydraulic controls, electrical controls, and more, in advance of the first tests in 2017.

“We haven’t seen this magnitude of testing since we tested the Saturn rockets and the space shuttle[s],” Chartier said. “These test facilities will serve NASA well as we continue on the Journey to Mars. I can’t wait to take my kids to an SLS launch and see the hardware we helped develop on these test stands – sturdy stands even their generation can use as they continue exploring space.”

The video shows a time-lapse construction of the stand from the start in May 2014 to the end in September 2016.

Video courtesy of NASA Marshall


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. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

Reader Comments

The large volume of LOX requires good resolve baffles in the tank to prevent deflation.

SLS -Hydrogen Tank – Idea Proposal.
To prevent hydrogen diffusion before testing suggest coating the imer surface of the tank with sodium tungstate Na2WO4 + water. It should be good for hydrogen storage for several days.

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