NASA has now scheduled a second static fire test of the core stage of its SLS rocket, tentatively scheduled for the fourth week in February.
The first test, planned to last eight minutes, shut down after only one minute when the stage’s computers decided the parameters on engine #2 were outside their conservative margins. That burn also had a sensor issue with its fourth engine.
Conducting a second hot fire test will allow the team to repeat operations from the first hot fire test and obtain data on how the core stage and the engines perform over a longer period that simulates more activities during the rocket’s launch and ascent. To prepare for the second hot fire test, the team is continuing to analyze data from the first test, drying and refurbishing the engines, and making minor thermal protection system repairs. They are also updating conservative control logic parameters that resulted in the flight computer ending the first hot fire test earlier than planned. The team has already repaired the faulty electrical harness which resulted in a notification of a Major Component Failure on Engine 4. This instrumentation issue did not affect the engine’s performance and did not contribute to ending the first test early.
Assuming this test is successful, they will then need a month to get the stage ready for shipment by barge to Cape Canaveral, where it will take several more months to get it assembled with its two strap-on solid rocket boosters, its upper stage, and the Orion capsule on top.
Right now the unmanned test flight into orbit of this entire rocket and Orion is set for November ’21. While NASA has not announced a delay, this additional static fire test puts significant pressure on that schedule.
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