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Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA will conduct an RS-25 hot fire Friday, Feb. 23, moving one step closer to production of new engines that will help power the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.
Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, are set to begin the second half of a 12-test RS-25 certification series on the Fred Haise Test Stand, following installation of a second production nozzle on the engine.
Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin The six remaining hot fires are part of the second, and final, test series collecting data to certify an updated engine production process, using innovative manufacturing techniques, for lead engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company.
As NASA aims to establish a long-term presence on the Moon for scientific discovery and exploration, and prepare for future missions to Mars, new engines will incorporate dozens of improvements to make production more efficient and affordable while maintaining high performance and reliability.
Four RS-25 engines, along with a pair of solid rocket boosters, launch NASA’s powerful SLS rocket, producing more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff for Artemis missions.
During the seventh test of the 12-test series, operators plan to fire the certification engine for 550 seconds and up to a 113% power level.
“NASA’s commitment to safety and ‘testing like you fly’ is on display as we plan to fire the engine beyond 500 seconds, which is the same amount of time the engines must fire to help launch the SLS rocket to space with astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft,” said Chip Ellis, project manager for RS-25 testing at Stennis.
The Feb. 23 test features a second certification engine nozzle to allow engineers to gather additional performance data on the upgraded unit. The new nozzle was installed on the engine earlier this month while it remained at the test stand. Using specially adapted procedures and tools, the teams were able to swap out the nozzles with the engine in place.
Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin In early February 2024, teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, completed an RS-25 nozzle remove-and-replace procedure as part of an ongoing hot fire series on the Fred Haise Test Stand. The new nozzle will allow engineers to collect and compare performance data on a second production unit. The RS-25 nozzle, which directs engine thrust, is the most labor-intensive component on the engine and the hardest to manufacture, said Shawn Buckley, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 nozzle integrated product team lead.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has focused on streamlining the nozzle production process. Between manufacture of the first and second production units, the company reduced hands-on labor by 17%.
“The nozzle is a work of machinery and work of art at the same time,” Buckley said. “Our team sees this nozzle as more than a piece of hardware. We see the role we play in the big picture as we return humans to the Moon.”
With completion of the certification test series, all systems will be “go” to produce the first new RS-25 engines since the space shuttle era. NASA has contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne to produce 24 new RS-25 engines using the updated design for missions beginning with Artemis V. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne modified 16 former space shuttle missions for use on Artemis missions I through IV.
Through Artemis, NASA will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.
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By European Space Agency
Today, ESA’s space telescope Euclid begins its survey of the dark Universe. Over the next six years, Euclid will observe billions of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic history. Learn how the team prepared Euclid in the months after launch for this gigantic cosmic quest.
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The Axiom Mission 3 crew aboard the International Space Station, pictured from left to right: Marcus Wandt, Michael López-Alegría, Alper Gezeravci, and Walter Villadei. Credits: Axiom Space The third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station successfully completed its journey as part of NASA efforts to create commercial opportunities in space. Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) and its four crew members safely returned to Earth Friday, splashing down off the coast of Daytona, Florida.
Axiom Space astronauts, Michael López-Alegría, Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt, and Alper Gezeravci returned to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 8:30 a.m. EST, completing their nearly 22-day mission that included 18 days aboard the space station. Teams aboard SpaceX recovery vessels retrieved the spacecraft and astronauts.
“Low Earth orbit is now within humanity’s economic sphere of influence. It presents the best opportunities for the U.S. commercial space sector to capture new global and domestic markets and to provide critical capabilities to the nation’s space objectives,” said Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s commercial space division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This ground-breaking Ax-3 mission is part of a larger effort, enabled by NASA, to open space to more people, more research, and more opportunities as the agency prepares for the transition to future private space stations at the end of this decade.”
The Ax-3 mission launched at 4:49 p.m. Jan. 18 on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Approximately 37 hours later, Dragon docked to the Harmony module’s forward port. The astronauts undocked from the same port at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, to begin the trip home.
The crew spent over two weeks conducting microgravity research, educational outreach, and commercial activities. The spacecraft returns to Florida for inspection and processing at SpaceX’s refurbishing facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where teams will examine the spacecraft’s data and performance throughout the flight. Throughout their mission, the astronauts conducted over 30 science experiments, and returned science, including NASA cargo, back to Earth.
Supporting private astronaut missions is part of NASA’s strategy to create a vibrant commercial economy in orbit where the agency will become just one of many customers.
The Ax-3 mission embodies the culmination of NASA’s efforts to foster a commercial market in low Earth orbit and continue a new era of space exploration that enables more people and organizations to fly multiple mission objectives. This partnership expands the arc of human spaceflight history and opens access to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, science, and commercial opportunities.
Learn more about how NASA is supporting a space economy in low-Earth orbit:
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