NASA has been working on yours for about a decade Space Launch System, the new propulsion system that should bring humanity back to the moon. The finish line is not that far but time is running out: A crucial “core stage” test will be attempted again this month.
The series of tests that NASA wants to conclude by the fourth week of February is called “Green Fire Test“: divided into eight different types of experiments, it has the task of testing the goodness of the propulsion, the engines, as well as the launch and support system for the rocket itself. On January 17, the American Agency tried to carry out the last test: simultaneous ignition of all four RS -25 engines of the “core stage” for a total of at least 500 seconds (thus simulating the actual ignition of when the SLS will leave for the Moon).
On this occasion however, something went wrong, causing an automatic safety shutdown – set by the computer – after only 67 seconds. A period of time too short to consider the experiment useful anyway, so NASA was forced to schedule a new ignition.
After the first test, the main stage hardware, including the RS-25 engines and the B-2 test rig, remained in excellent condition, agency spokespeople reported “No major repairs are needed to prepare for the second hot fire test we plan to perform in the fourth week of February at the Stennis Space Center“.
Some were worried about this continuous repetition of power ups and tests: the main doubt was centered on the fact that the tanks of the central stage of the rocket can only be filled (and emptied) with the cryogenic propellant a certain number of times, and therefore a carrier not even officially “inaugurated” was already wearing out excessively.
Fortunately, NASA has specified that the SLS – in this sense – is in no danger, having been designed to be subjected to at least 22 loading and unloading cycles (so that it can also cover its official roles extensively, for when it will be ).
The problem that now arises is to respect the roadmaps: the core stage must perform the last test, must be cleaned up and “packed” to reach the Kennedy Space Center, perform the last tests, be integrated with the Orion capsule and then face the official flight of Artemis-1 (which we remind you will be without crew). All this by the end of 2021.
It may seem like there is still a lot of time but 11 months are very few in the aerospace sector. Will the US agency be able to keep its word? For now, NASA has not announced any official delays or postponements, but the chances of a launch this year are not very high.
Remaining in the Artemis program, here you will find the NASA announcement where the next astronauts who will go to the Moon were officially presented.