NASA plans final SLS Rocket hot fire test for this weekend

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NASA is planning to run its final test in the Green Run test series for the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will launch the agency’s Artemis I mission this weekend.

The Artemis program aims to run a manned mission to the Moon by 2024. Artemis I  will be an uncrewed test flight and the first integrated flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket.

The test, known as the hot fire is expected to take place at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi on Saturday, January 16.

During the test, engineers will power up all the core stage systems, load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic propellant into the tanks and fire all four engines at the same time.

The Green Run test series is a comprehensive assessment of the rocket’s core stage prior to SLS launching Artemis missions. The core stage includes the liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank, four RS-25 engines, and the computers, electronics, and avionics that serve as the “brains” of the rocket.

NASA has completed seven of the eight core stage Green Run tests, including loading and draining propellant for the first time during the most recent test, the wet dress rehearsal, on December 20. Prior tests in the Green Run test series evaluated the stage’s avionics systems, propulsion systems, and hydraulic systems.

The upcoming hot fire test will simulate the stage’s operation during launch.

After the firing at Stennis, the core stage for SLS will be refurbished and shipped on the agency’s Pegasus barge to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The stage will then be assembled with the other parts of the rocket and NASA’s Orion spacecraft in preparation for Artemis I.

Barry Robinson, project manager for SLS core stage Green Run testing at Stennis said, “The next few days are critical in preparing the Artemis I rocket stage, the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, and the test team for the finale of the Green Run test series. “The upcoming Green Run hot fire test is the culmination of a lot of hard work by this team as we approach a key milestone event for NASA’s Artemis missions.”

The test program of the SLS rocket’s core stage is a combined effort between NASA and its industry partners. Boeing is the prime contractor for the core stage and Aerojet Rocketdyne is the lead contractor for the RS-25 engines.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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