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.

Audit: NASA Making Progress With Artemis Software

The first Artemis rocket stage is guided toward NASA’s Pegasus barge Jan. 8 ahead of its forthcoming journey to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has made progress in improving the development of software for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) booster and Orion spacecraft that will take American astronauts back to the moon, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The software is on track to be ready for the first launch of SLS and an automated Orion capsule in 2021, the review found. However, challenges remain in the over budget and behind schedule effort.

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NASA Leadership Assessing Mission Impacts of Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2020 (NASA PR) — To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.

“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.” 

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Mobile Launchers: NASA’s Billion Dollar Bungle

The VAB is the large building located in the upper left corner of the photograph and ML-1 is the tall tower-like structure resting on the crawler-transporter located in the lower right corner. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest audit of NASA’s troubled Artemis lunar program had some good news and some bad news regarding the mobile launch (ML) platforms that will be used for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) that will send American astronauts back to the moon.

“After nearly a decade of development, ML-1 is nearing completion in support of the launch of Artemis I, the first integrated, uncrewed flight test of the SLS and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion),” the report from NASA Office of Inspector General (IG) said. (Full Report)

And now, the bad news.

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Test Version of Orion Capsule Recovered in the Pacific Ocean

Seahawks from the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23, also known as Wildcards, fly by a test version of an Orion capsule during Underway Recovery Test-8 in the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray)

With the USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) in the distance, helicopters from the HSC-23 squadron fly by a test version of an Orion capsule during Underway Recovery Test-8 in the Pacific Ocean. During this first full mission profile test of the recovery procedures for Artemis I, NASA’s Landing and Recovery team met their objectives.

Artemis I, formerly Exploration Mission-1, will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket, with the newly upgraded Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

The primary goal of the mission is to assure a safe crew module entry, descent, splashdown and recovery. Artemis will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

Orion Completes Environmental Tests at Plum Brook

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

SANDUSKY, Ohio (ESA PR) — The first Orion spacecraft that will fly around the Moon as part of Artemis to return humans to the lunar surface has finished its space-environment tests at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, USA.

The vehicle – that can transport up to four astronauts – consists of the European Service Module, the Crew Module and connecting adapter and all elements have now been given the stamp of approval for spaceflight after being subjected to the vacuum, extreme temperatures and electro-magnetic interference it will encounter during its trip to the Moon.

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