Tag Archives: test stand

NASA builds a $349 million test stand it knows it will never need

SLS marches on! Though Obama cancelled the Constellation rocket program in 2010, NASA continued to build a $349 million engine test stand for that rocket, finishing the tower in June 2014.

The test stand was also significantly over budget. It now sits useless, since the SLS rocket will use a different untested engine in its upper stage during its first manned flight.

It is every important to underline the chronology here. The rocket was cancelled in 2010. Construction on the test stand continued however for four more years, partly because of decisions by NASA management and partly because of mandates forced on them by Congress.

Stories like this illustrate why I think the political clout of SLS is weak. The program is too expensive, is riddled with waste, and it can’t accomplish anything anyway, making it a perfect target for both muckraking journalists and elected officials who want to make a name for themselves saving the taxpayer’s money. And both have a perfect inexpensive and successful alternative to turn to: private space.

Washcloth delays SLS engine tests

The testing of an engine for the giant SLS rocket will be delayed because engineers have found the remains of a washcloth in the ducts of the test stand at Stennis Space Center.

The investigation found the fibers belong to a cotton shop rag from a weld shop that had been involved with working on the LOX duct ID surface during manufacture. The roughened surface (of the duct) was where the fibers were observed to be hanging up on.

The investigation team reported that, under microscope inspection, a piece of the run duct stock showed metallic particles loosely adhered to the ID surface and embedded in the ‘machining’ groves. Several were easily dislodged and identified as ID surface material. “A tape sample was pulled from the same stock (after an identical cleaning process) and produced a rather large quantity of particles. This is an unacceptable condition and it was agreed that the entire run duct will need to be replaced or reworked (~30-ft of pipe),” added the investigation notes.

Replacing the duct will cause a several month delay in the test program. Fortunately for NASA, they have some wiggle room (for the moment), since the entire SLS schedule has already slipped a year to 2018.

Nonetheless, do not be surprised if this is only the first of many further delays.