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Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA conducted the third RS-25 engine hot fire in a critical 12-test certification series Nov. 29, demonstrating a key capability necessary for flight of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket during Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.
NASA is conducting the series of tests to certify new manufacturing processes for producing RS-25 engines for future deep space missions, beginning with Artemis V. Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies Company and lead engines contractor for the SLS rocket, is incorporating new manufacturing techniques and processes, such as 3D printing, in production of new RS-25 engines.
Crews gimbaled, or pivoted, the RS-25 engine around a central point during the almost 11-minute (650 seconds) hot fire on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The gimbaling technique is used to control and stabilize SLS as it reaches orbit.
During the Nov. 29 test, operators also pushed the engine beyond any parameters it might experience during flight to provide a margin of operational safety. The 650-second test exceeded the 500 seconds RS-25 engines must operate to help power SLS to space. The RS-25 engine also was fired to 113% power level, exceeding the 111% level needed to lift SLS to orbit.
The ongoing series will stretch into 2024 as NASA continues its mission to return humans to the lunar surface to establish a long-term presence for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars.
Four RS-25 engines fire simultaneously to generate a combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust at launch and 2 million pounds of thrust during ascent to help power each SLS flight. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne modified 16 holdover space shuttle main engines, all proven flightworthy at NASA Stennis, for Artemis missions I through IV.
Every new RS-25 engine that will help power SLS also will be tested at NASA Stennis. RS-25 tests at the site are conducted by a combined team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services operators. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.
Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on X, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtags #Artemis, #NASAStennis, #SLS. Follow and tag these accounts:
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Last Updated Nov 29, 2023 EditorNASA Stennis CommunicationsContactC. Lacy Thompsoncalvin.firstname.lastname@example.org / (228) 688-3333LocationStennis Space Center Related Terms
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NASA/Charles Beason Artemis II NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman, and Christina Koch of NASA, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen signed the Orion stage adapter for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 27. The hardware is the topmost portion of the SLS rocket that they will launch atop during Artemis II when the four astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will venture around the Moon.
From left, Artemis II astronauts Jeremy Hansen, Christina Koch, Victor Glover, and Reid Wiseman sign the SLS Orion stage adapter for the Artemis II mission during their visit to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 27.
Image credits: NASA/Charles Beason
The Orion stage adapter is a small ring structure that connects NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the SLS rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage and fully manufactured at Marshall. At five feet tall and weighing 1,800 pounds, the adapter is the smallest major element of the SLS rocket. During Artemis II, the adapter’s diaphragm will serve as a barrier to prevent gases created during launch from entering the spacecraft.
NASA is working to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, advanced spacesuits and rovers, the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission. Through Artemis, NASA will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and prepare for the next giant leap: sending astronauts to Mars.
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Teams with Astrobotic install the NASA meatball decal on Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.NASA/Isaac Watson NASA will host a What’s on Board media teleconference at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 29, to discuss the science payloads flying aboard the first commercial robotic flight to the lunar surface as part of the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative under the Artemis program.
Carrying NASA and commercial payloads to the Moon, Astrobotic Technologies will launch its Peregrine lander on ULA’s (United Launch Alliance) Vulcan rocket. Liftoff of the ULA Vulcan rocket is targeted no earlier than Sunday, Dec. 24, from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Peregrine lunar lander will touch down on the Moon in early 2024.
Audio of the call will stream on the agency’s website at:
Briefing participants include:
Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for Exploration, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters in Washington Ryan Watkins, program scientist, Exploration Science Strategy and Integration Office, NASA Headquarters Chris Culbert, program manager, CLPS, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston John Thornton, CEO, Astrobotic, Pittsburgh To participate by telephone, media must RSVP no later than two hours before the briefing to: email@example.com.
NASA awarded a task order for the delivery of scientific payloads to Astrobotic in May 2019. Among the items on its lander, the Peregrine Mission One will carry NASA payloads investigating the lunar exosphere, thermal properties of the lunar regolith, hydrogen abundances in the soil at the landing site, and magnetic fields, as well as radiation environment monitoring.
Through Artemis, NASA is working with multiple CLPS vendors to establish a regular cadence of payload deliveries to the Moon to perform experiments, test technologies, and demonstrate capabilities to help NASA explore the lunar surface. This pool of companies may bid on task orders to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon. Task orders include payload integration and operations, launching from Earth, and landing on the surface of the Moon. The indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity CLPS contracts have a cumulative maximum value of $2.6 billion through 2028.
With CLPS, as well as with human exploration near the lunar South Pole, NASA will establish a long-term cadence of Moon missions in preparation for sending the first astronauts to Mars.
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Last Updated Nov 20, 2023 Location NASA Headquarters Related Terms
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5 Min Read The Heat is On! NASA’s “Flawless” Heat Shield Demo Passes the Test
The Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, or LOFTID, spacecraft is pictured after its atmospheric re-entry test in November 2022. Credits: NASA / Greg Swanson A little more than a year ago, a NASA flight test article came screaming back from space at more than 18,000 mph, reaching temperatures of nearly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit before gently splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. At that moment, it became the largest blunt body — a type of reentry vehicle that creates a heat-deflecting shockwave — ever to reenter Earth’s atmosphere.
The Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) launched on Nov. 10, 2022, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket and successfully demonstrated an inflatable heat shield. Also known as a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) aeroshell, this technology could allow larger spacecraft to safely descend through the atmospheres of celestial bodies like Mars, Venus, and even Saturn’s moon, Titan.
“Large-diameter aeroshells allow us to deliver critical support hardware, and potentially even crew, to the surface of planets with atmospheres. This capability is crucial for the nation’s ambition of expanding human and robotic exploration across our solar system,” said Trudy Kortes, director of the Technology Demonstrations Missions (TDM) program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NASA has been developing HIAD technologies for over a decade, including two smaller scale suborbital flight tests before LOFTID. In addition to this successful tech demo, NASA is investigating future applications, including partnering with commercial companies to develop technologies for small satellite reentry, aerocapture, and cislunar payloads.
“This was a keystone event for us, and the short answer is: It was highly successful,” said LOFTID Project Manager Joe Del Corso. “Our assessment of LOFTID concluded with the promise of what this technology may do to empower the exploration of deep space.”
Due to the success of the LOFTID tech demo, NASA announced under its Tipping Point program that it would partner with ULA to develop and deliver the “next size up,” a larger 12-meter HIAD aeroshell for recovering the company’s Vulcan engines from low Earth orbit for reuse.
A Successful Test in the Books, A Video Recap
The LOFTID team recently held a post-flight analysis assessment of the flight test at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Their verdict?
Upon recovery, the team discovered LOFTID appeared pristine, with minimal damage, meaning its performance was, as Del Corso puts it, “Just flawless.”
Here are some interesting visual highlights from LOFTID’s flight test.
NASA To get to atmospheric reentry, LOFTID had to go through an intricate sequence of events. Del Corso compared it to a Rube Goldberg device, a complex machine designed to carry out simple tasks through a series of chain reactions.
Video captured the moment LOFTID deployed the HIAD (on the left), compared to a preflight animation developed by NASA Langley’s Advanced Concepts Lab (on the right). Inflation happens at the bottom of the video as LOFTID flies over the African continent.
NASA As it flew over the Mediterranean Sea, LOFTID separated from the ULA Centaur upper stage. On the left, LOFTID is seen from Centaur’s forward-facing camera. The composite image on the right is from cameras around LOFTID’s center body, looking forward and outboard at the orange inflatable HIAD structure. In the center, looking back at Centaur, LOFTID is seen from an aft-facing camera.
NASA As LOFTID reentered Earth’s atmosphere and reached nearly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, the extreme heat caused gases around it to ionize and form plasma. On the right, the images from the center body cameras became extremely bright in the visible spectrum, while the Earth is visible on infrared cameras as the vehicle rotated.
The camera captured footage of the plasma quickly changing colors from orange to purple. Why the color change? “We’re still investigating exactly what causes that,” said John DiNonno, LOFTID chief engineer. The animation on the left shows an artist’s concept of what the front side may have looked like.
NASA This video, captured by NASA Langley’s Scientifically Calibrated In-Flight Imagery team, shows LOFTID during peak deceleration as the plasma recedes. On the left, LOFTID streaks through the night sky over the Pacific Ocean. On the right, the purple coloration flares up on the back side of LOFTID.
In the second part of the video, the left shifts to one of the cameras looking at the back of the aeroshell, with the receding plasma streaking at its edge.
NASA After slowing down from more than 18,000 mph to less than 80 mph, LOFTID deployed its parachutes.
From an infrared camera aboard the recovery ship, this video shows the parachute deployment and splashdown just over the horizon. The preflight animation is provided on the right for comparison.
NASA LOFTID splashed down in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles off the east coast of Hawaii and only about eight miles from the recovery ship’s bow — almost exactly as modeled. A crew got on a small boat and retrieved and hoisted LOFTID onto the recovery ship. Here is an image from the first contact with LOFTID after it splashed down.
“The LOFTID mission was important because it proved the cutting-edge HIAD design functioned successfully at an appropriate scale and in a relevant environment,” said Tawnya Laughinghouse, manager of the TDM program office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The LOFTID demonstration was a public private-partnership with ULA funded by STMD and managed by the Technology Demonstration Mission Program, executed by NASA Langley with contributions from across NASA centers. Multiple U.S. small businesses contributed to the hardware. NASA’s Launch Services Program was responsible for NASA’s oversight of launch operations.
For more information on LOFTID, click here.
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