Four Down, Four to Go: Artemis I Rocket Moves Closer to Hot Fire Test

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is completing the Green Run test for the rocket’s core stage, shown installed on the top left side of the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA/Stennis)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage for the Artemis I lunar mission has successfully completed its first four Green Run tests and is building on those tests for the next phase of checkout as engineers require more capability of the hardware before hot-firing the stage and its four powerful engines.

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Key Connection for Artemis I Arrives at Kennedy

Technicians with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems move the launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on July 30, 2020, for processing. (Credits: Jacobs/Tracy Yates)

by Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

The second to last piece of hardware for the Artemis I  test flight around the Moon has arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) connects the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to the upper stage, called the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage.

The cone-shaped connector also helps protect the RL10 engine housed in the upper stage, which will provide the power necessary to leave Earth’s orbit and send the Orion spacecraft on its journey to the Moon.

“The launch vehicle stage adapter arriving to Kennedy is significant because we have almost all of the pieces of the rocket here as we get closer to launch,” said Allison Mjoen, operations project engineer with the Exploration Ground Systems program. “We have moved from planning into implementation, and soon the rocket will begin taking shape with stacking operations.”

Arriving at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf, the LVSA traveled from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to Florida on the agency’s Pegasus barge – a 310-foot-long vessel that has been modified to transport the largest rocket stage in the world: the SLS core stage. Technicians offloaded the LVSA and transported it to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where it will be stored until it is needed for stacking on the rocket. The core stage – made up of the forward skirt, liquid oxygen tank, liquid hydrogen tank, and the engine section containing the rocket’s four RS-25 engines – is the final piece of the rocket that will be delivered to Kennedy ahead of the Artemis I launch.

Under the Artemis program, NASA is working toward landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. Artemis I will test SLS and Orion as an integrated system prior to crewed flights and is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars. SLS and Orion, coupled with the Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, will be the agency’s backbone of deep space exploration.

NASA Teams Load Artemis I Rocket Hardware on Barge for Trip to Kennedy

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s launch vehicle stage adapter is loaded on the Pegasus barge at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, July 17. The launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the rocket’s 212-foot-tall core stage to the upper stage of the rocket, will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Artemis I launch preparations. (Credits: NASA/Fred Deaton)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, moved the Artemis I launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket onto the agency’s Pegasus barge July 17.

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Audit Says NASA Hid $17 Billion in Orion-related Costs

Orion undergoing testing at Plum Brook Station. (Credit: NASA–Marvin Smith)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new audit of the Orion lunar crew vehicle has found that NASA has excluded $17 billion in program‐related costs from its budget estimate, and the space agency has paid “overly generous” performance awards to prime contractor Lockheed Martin despite the program being over budget and behind schedule.

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Orion’s ‘Twin’ Completes Structural Testing for Artemis I Mission

The Orion STA, in its “full stack” launch configuration — the crew module, service module and launch abort system, as well as the spacecraft adapter and jettisonable fairings — was lifted into a reverberant acoustic chamber at Lockheed Martin for acoustic testing. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

DENVER (NASA PR) — Before NASA astronauts fly the Orion spacecraft on Artemis missions to the Moon and back, engineers needed to thoroughly test its ability to withstand the stresses of launch, climb to orbit, the harsh conditions of deep space transit, and return to Earth. NASA designed Orion from the beginning specifically to support astronauts on missions farther from Earth than any other spacecraft built for humans.

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NASA Prepares to Complete Artemis SLS Rocket Structural Testing

The Space Launch System’s liquid oxygen tank is one of two propellant tanks in the rocket’s massive core stage that will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to help launch Artemis I, the first flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon. Now, the tank will undergo the final test completing a three-year structural test campaign at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program is concluding its structural qualification test series with one upcoming final test that will push the design for the rocket’s liquid oxygen tank to its limits at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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NASA Invites Competitors to Shoot for the Moon and Beyond

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting additional teams to compete in the Cube Quest Challenge. You can still participate in the in-space phase of the challenge and be eligible to win part of a $4.5 million prize purse.

The Cube Quest Challenge, NASA’s first in-space competition, incentivizes teams to design, build and deliver small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the Moon. To compete, new teams meeting the eligibility criteria must obtain a ride to deep space for their CubeSats – either through commercial launch opportunities or programs like NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

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GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

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NASA Prepares To Send Artemis I Booster Segments to Kennedy for Stacking

Artemis I solid rocket booster. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

PROMONTORY POINT, Utah (NASA PR) — As it soars off the launch pad for the Artemis I missions, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is powered by two solid rocket boosters. Critical parts of the booster will soon head to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Artemis I launch.

Specialized transporters move each of the 10 solid rocket motor segments from the Northrop Grumman facility in their Promontory Point, Utah, to a departure point where they will leave for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The cross-country journey is an important milestone toward the first launch of NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

Exploration Ground Systems teams at Kennedy will begin processing the segments with the forward and aft parts of the booster previously assembled in the Booster Fabrication Facility on site at Kennedy.

When the boosters arrive, they are moved into the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) that in the past to processed shuttle booster segments. Initial stacking of the aft assembly will occur here, and then booster segments will be kept at the RPSF until stacking on the mobile launcher inside Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS, along with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the Human Landing System and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Make Progress as SLS/Orion Launch Slips

A liquid hydrogen storage tank is photographed at Launch Pad 39B on Nov. 8, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) required for NASA’s Artemis moon program are making progress as the first flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft continues to slip into the future.

“According to officials, most of the infrastructure needed for the Artemis I is nearing operational readiness. Currently, the program plans to finish the system acceptance and operational readiness reviews for vehicle stacking in September 2020,” according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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NASA to Spend $1.8 Billion on RS-25 Engines for Space Launch System

The four RS-25 engines, shown here, are attached to the SLS core stage that will send the Artemis I mission to the Moon. (Credits: NASA/Jude Guidry)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, to manufacture 18 additional Space Launch System (SLS) RS-25 rocket engines to support Artemis missions to the Moon.

The follow-on contract to produce 18 engines is valued at $1.79 billion. This includes labor to build and test the engines, produce tooling and support SLS flights powered by the engines. This modifies the initial contract awarded in November 2015 to recertify and produce six new RS-25 engines and brings the total contract value to almost $3.5 billion with a period of performance through Sept. 30, 2029, and a total of 24 engines to support as many as six additional SLS flights.

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NASA to Announce Commercial Human Lander Awards for Artemis Moon Missions

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, April 30, to announce the companies selected to develop modern human landing systems (HLS) that will carry the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and develop sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.

Audio of the call will stream online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

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NASA Ground, Marine Teams Integral to Moving SLS Rocket to Pad

NASA’s Ground Transportation team guides NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s completed core stage from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the agency’s Pegasus barge on Jan. 8. NASA’s Marine Transportation team and Pegasus crew then shipped the rocket stage to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for the core stage Green Run test series. The 212-foot-tall core stage is currently undergoing Green Run testing. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As NASA prepares for the first launch of Artemis I, the first mission of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Moon, one team will be there every step of the way: the aptly nicknamed “SLS Move Team.”

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Orion Ready for Final Artemis I Launch Preparations

Orion undergoing interference testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station. (Credit: ESA)

By Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s Orion spacecraft for Artemis I returned to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 25 after engineers put it through the rigors of environmental testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. At Kennedy, the spacecraft will undergo final processing and preparations prior to launching on the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to the exploration of Mars.

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Artemis I Spacecraft Environmental Testing Complete

Orion undergoing testing at Plum Brook Station. (Credit: NASA–Marvin Smith)

SANDUSKY, Ohio (NASA PR) — After four months of rigorous testing in the world’s premier space environments simulation facility at NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission is certified and another step toward being ready for flight.

The test campaign, which was completed ahead of schedule in mid-March, subjected the spacecraft to the extreme temperatures and electromagnetic conditions it will endure during its uncrewed test flight around the Moon and back to ensure it will perform as designed.

The spacecraft will fly back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard the agency’s one-of-a-kind Super Guppy to begin final assembly and checkout, including installation of the spacecraft’s four solar arrays, and eventual integration with the Space Launch System rocket.