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NASA sets March 18th for next SLS static fire test

NASA has now scheduled the next static fire test of the core stage of its SLS rocket for March 18th.

The background:

NASA attempted the hot fire test on January 16, but computers terminated the test after 67 seconds instead of 485 seconds because of the conservative test parameters that were set. This is not a test vehicle, but the actual core stage that will be used for the first SLS launch. NASA needs to ensure the testing does not damage it.

NASA decided to redo the test and scheduled it for February 25, but a problem with a pre-valve forced another delay.

If this March test is successful, it will take a month to prep the core stage for shipment by barge to Florida, where it will take several months to prep it for launch linked to its two solid rocket boosters now stacked and ready for launch. If that schedule moves fast, NASA is still aiming for a late ’21 launch, though most industry experts expect that date to shift into early ’22.

If the March test has any problems however this schedule goes out the window. Worse, it increases the chance that the two boosters will have reached the end of their 12-month use-by date (approximately December ’21), and will have to be dissembled and inspected. If that happens the launch will certainly be delayed by many months.

There is another possibility. NASA might waive that 12-month use-by date requirement for the boosters. If the agency does this, however, it will be another example of the same management mistakes that caused both the Challenger and Columbia shuttle failures, a desire to put aside proper engineering to meet a schedule.

One more thought: That it takes about four months to assemble the solid rocket boosters for SLS illustrates well the cumbersome and inefficient nature of this rocket. Launches not only cannot happen within days, they really cannot happen for months. Depending on such a rocket with such a low launch cadence will make the exploration of the solar system practically impossible.

Pioneer cover

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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  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “That it takes about four months to assemble the solid rocket boosters for SLS illustrates well the cumbersome and inefficient nature of this rocket.

    Most likely this assembly took longer than it will during operations, because this is the first time that they have done this stackup. Despite the Congressional order, it is not quite the same as on the Space Shuttle, so the differences need verification even at the assembly level. Think of this as a pathfinder flight unit. Operations are probably being done with greater care and more paperwork than later flight units. SLS-Orion has more major components than the Space Shuttle, but we can hope that their final assembly operations take only a little longer for SLS-Orion than for the Shuttle.

  • Andi

    Small edit in first paragraph after the background: “ready for launch “

  • Andi: Fixed. Thank you as always.

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