NASA has now scheduled the first full static fire test of the core stage of its SLS rockt for no earlier than November 14th.
Currently installed in the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the massive 212-foot-tall core stage has completed six of eight planned green run tests before it can be shipped to KSC by barge as the final piece of the first mission of the Artemis program, slated for launch in November 2021.
Officials with NASA as well as contractors Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne gave an update on the core stage progress on Tuesday, stating the tentative date for the hot fire test is Nov. 14, and the target for it to be loaded onto the Pegasus barge for the trip to Florida is Jan. 14.
“So far the design has held together extremely well. We’ve not really had any surprises,” said John Shannon, Boeing’s vice president and program manager for the Space Launch System.
Unlike SpaceX, which uses tests like this to figure out how to build its rockets, NASA uses these tests to confirm its designs and construction at the very end of development. This difference in approach, now so clearly illustrated by simultaneous tests going on from both, I think shows the advantages of SpaceX’s approach. By testing during development, SpaceX can quickly fix any problems it finds, and move forward fast with better designs. This approach also results in a less expensive final result.
NASA instead must make sure its designs are perfect on the drafting board, which therefore requires their engineers to include gigantic design margins, resulting in long construction schedules and an expensive final product. Worst of all, should SLS fail during this final test, NASA will face some very difficult and expensive choices, none good.
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