NASA Sinks More Money into SLS

The manufacture and checkout of all 10 motor segments for the first Artemis flight were completed in January at Northrop Grumman’s factory in Promontory, Utah. (Credits: Northrop Grumman)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters to support as many as six additional flights, for a total of up to nine Artemis missions. The agency is continuing to work with Northrop Grumman of Brigham City, Utah, the current lead contractor for the solid rocket boosters that will launch the first three Artemis missions, including the mission that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024.

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NASA Completes Artemis Space Launch System Structural Testing Campaign

Engineers completed almost 200 tests on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket by breaking the liquid oxygen tank test article. This test was the last in a 3-year structural campaign to ensure the rocket’s structure was designed to endure the rigors of spacefllight. The tests were essential for safely sending astronauts to space on the Artemis missions the Moon. First, engineers used computer modeling to design the rocket’s major structures to specific factors of safety. Then, they anchored those models with testing to see if the model’s predictions are correct. More than 20 SLS structural tests showed that the liquid oxygen tank would survive the forces predicted to occur during launch and flight. The June 24 test pushed the tank beyond its limits to see how much force it would take to break the tank’s structure. This image shows water gushing out of the tank as it failed. The resulted circumferential buckling of the structure occurred within 2% of the predicted failure value. The test results will provide rocket designers with valuable information for making the SLS tanks lighter and for informing the designs of other government and commercial rockets. (Credits: NASA/David Olive)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — On June 24, 2020, engineers completed the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s structural testing campaign for the Artemis lunar missions by testing the liquid oxygen structural test article to find its point of failure.

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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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U.S. Companies Advance Critical Human Lander Technologies

Compilation of artist’s renderings representing NextSTEP Appendix E work. Top row, left to right: Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin. Bottom row, left to right: Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, Masten Space System, Boeing. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA and 11 commercial partners recently completed a series of technical studies, demonstrations and ground prototypes for 21st Century human landing systems. The Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Appendix E work helped the agency refine its Artemis program requirements for the companies competing to build the landers that will take American astronauts to the Moon throughout this decade.

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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 Awards Northrop Grumman Artemis Contract for Gateway Crew Cabin

Artist’s concept of the Gateway power and propulsion and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has finalized the contract for the initial crew module of the agency’s Gateway lunar orbiting outpost.

Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Space, has been awarded $187 million to design the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO) for the Gateway, which is part of NASA’s Artemis program and will help the agency build a sustainable presence at the Moon. This award funds HALO’s design through its preliminary design review, expected by the end of 2020.

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NASA’s SLS Core Stage Green Run Tests Critical Systems For Artemis I

Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, completed the first test of the eight-part core stage Green Run test series for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on Jan. 30. (Credits: NASA)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA is resuming work on a series of tests to bring the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage to life for the first time, allowing engineers to evaluate the new complex stage that will launch the Artemis I lunar mission.

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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 Takes Preliminary Steps to Resume SLS Core Stage Testing Work

The SLS stage being prepared for the green run. (Credits: NASA/SSC)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — NASA resumed Green Run testing activities this week on the first flight stage of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, with the return of limited crews to perform work at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

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WFIRST Continues to Make Progress Despite Cancellation Attempts

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) continues to making steady progress toward an October 2026 launch despite the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to cancel it, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Europa Clipper Faces Delay Due to SLS Booster Decision

Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit; NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Europa Clipper orbiter could be placed in storage for two years awaiting a ride to Jupiter’s icy moon at a cost of $250 million due to Congress’ insistence that it be flown aboard the Space Launch System (SLS), according to a new review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The cost estimate assumes that the Europa orbiter will be ready for launch in July 2023. It would be placed in storage until launch aboard a SLS in September 2025.

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Orion Makes Significant Progress, Awaits Ride to the Moon

Orion undergoing testing at Plum Brook. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Orion crew vehicle has made good progress over the past year, with the completion of a launch abort test and thermal vacuum testing on the spacecraft scheduled to an automated flight test around the moon next year, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Although Orion has suffered delays and budget overruns during development, the Space Launch System (SLS) that will send it to the moon is even more behind schedule due to development problems, the report found.

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New SLS Worry: Leaks

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. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of NASA’s massive Space Launch System (SLS) has a depressingly familiar ring to it. Tell me if you’ve heard this before:

  • schedule continues to slip
  • costs continue to rise
  • core stage could develop fuel leaks.

Yeah, that does sound famil– Wait…WHAT?!?

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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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