While NASA has not yet announced any decision on whether it will redo the full static fire test of its SLS core stage — following the January 16th abort — there are hints coming from industry sources that the agency is leaning to doing another test.
According to sources at the agency, program managers are in fact leaning toward conducting a second hot-fire test in Mississippi. Due to the need to obtain more propellant at the test site, conduct minor refurbishment to the vehicle, and possibly change the erratic sensor on Engine 4, the agency estimates it will require about three to four weeks before conducting another test.
Based on that schedule, the actual Artemis 1 unmanned flight, now set for November, will likely have to be delayed one month to December, since after the static fire test it will take several months to disassembly and prep the core stage for shipment to Florida and then reassembly it and prepare it for launch. That November launch date was predicated on a successful completion of the static fire test by January.
NASA and Boeing (the lead contractor building SLS) do not have much schedule margin however. They have begun stacking the solid rocket boosters that strap-on to the core stage. Once this is done the boosters supposedly have a life span of approximately one year, which means the launch must occur by about January ’22 though I would not be surprised if NASA waives that use-by-date if it needs to.
I am in a betting mood this morning. Want to bet SpaceX’s Starship completes its first orbital flight before SLS, even though it has been in development for one tenth the time (2 years vs 20) and for one thirtieth the cost ($2 billion vs $60)? I think the odds right now are very very likely. One way or the other, the race will definitely be neck-and-neck.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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