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SLS fueling test completed

NASA engineers today successfully completed the tanking test of the agency’s SLS rocket, completing all objectives after successfully dealing with a hydrogen fuel leak at the beginning of fueling.

The four main objectives for the demonstration included assessing the repair to address the hydrogen leak identified on the previous launch attempt, loading propellants into the rocket’s tanks using new procedures, conducting the kick-start bleed, and performing a pre-pressurization test. The new cryogenic loading procedures and ground automation were designed to transition temperature and pressures slowly during tanking to reduce the likelihood of leaks that could be caused by rapid changes in temperature or pressure. After encountering the leak early in the operation, teams further reduced loading pressures to troubleshoot the issue and proceed with the demonstration test. The pre-pressurization test enabled engineers to calibrate the settings used for conditioning the engines during the terminal count and validate timelines before launch day to reduce schedule risk during the countdown on launch day.

Teams will evaluate the data from the test, along with weather and other factors, before confirming readiness to proceed into the next launch opportunity. The rocket remains in a safe configuration as teams assess next steps. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are key. NASA has proposed a September 27, 2022 launch date. For that launch to occur, the rocket must remain on the launchpad, where it is impossible to check the batteries for operating the flight termination system used by the military range office to destroy the rocket should it go wildly out of control during launch. To check the batteries they need to roll it back to the assembly building, and one week is simply not enough time.

The vagueness of the highlighted language suggests that NASA has not yet gotten a waiver from the range for that date. Nor should it. Those batteries normally have a 20-day limit. On September 27th they will been unchecked for about 42 days, well past their use-by date.

This will be the first test launch of this rocket. Such first launches very frequently go wrong, and if SLS goes wrong, it would go wrong in a very big way, considering the size of the rocket. To do such a risky launch with a questionable flight termination system would not simply be improper it would be downright criminal.

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11 comments

  • Ray Van Dune

    Agree with your FTS comments 100%.

    Also noticed a terminology change concerning the “kick-start bleed” test of the ability to pre-chill the engines prior to ignition. Previously the measure was of engine temperature, with one of the engines (#3?) being “out of family” and insufficiently cooled. During this test, the measure seems to have shifted to some variable of a type “p”, implying that a pressure was being measured, and I heard no mention of specific engine temperatures, although I may have missed it.

    Given the discussion last time of whether the anomalous temperature reading could have been a sensor problem, I wonder if they have ignored the temp reading and instead assumed that if the pressure is there, the cooling must be occurring? Isn’t that quite possibly a stretch?

  • Col Beausabre

    If they get a waiver (and I am sure Brandon’s minions are applying all the pressure they can to the Space Force), Range Safety will have no creditability left. NONE

  • JackH

    After the last abort the official comment was they were taking the overpriced moon rocket back to the VAB. It was just a couple days ago that I saw they hadn’t done that. This leaking fuel fill line still isn’t properly fixed, it’s just at an “acceptable” level now. Which doesn’t raise my confidence. The batteries for the FTS very likely don’t have enough power now, and the SRBs are very likely to give us a spectacular failure if used. The big question is, how realistic is it for the range office to sign off on this rocket as it currently sits and why didn’t nasa roll this thing back to VAB so they could properly address the fuel leak and batteries when it would have saved at least a few million?

  • Col Beausabre

    “if SLS goes wrong, it would go wrong in a very big way, considering the size of the rocket” Picture the equivalent of a nuclear artillery round hitting Miami. Never happen? Before White Sands instituted stringent, Army style range regulations, they managed to put a missile into Juarez. AND SLS is orders of magnitude bigger than an A-4. Ancient SNL “Weekend Update” routine. “The Air Force has announced a nuclear tipped missile that was test fired is wildly off course and will hit a major American cir=ty in less than a minute!”. Jane Curtin, smiling into the camera, “And now we’ll pause for sixty seconds for this important message from our sponsor”

  • Concerned

    Ah, for the good ole days of long ago when SNL was actually funny…..

  • Richard M

    That tropical wave currently off Venezuela, Invest 98L, may end up making the whole thing moot anyway given what some of the track projections look like.

  • Col Beausabre

    Richard M “Give us a weather waiver” Problem solved.

  • pawn

    Is the Core stage LOX QD in the ground level service mast along with the LH2?

  • Ray Van Dune

    I guess now we know why the Saturn 5 booster had a KeroLox stage 1. This thing seems like a very expensive plumber’s nightmare! The existing LH2-handling technology at this scale seems inadequate.

  • Richard M

    Col Beausabre,

    After all, Gregory Peck did it in MAROONED, didn’t he?

  • Rockribbed1

    NASA should just go ahead and launch so that the not so secret hold on Spacex can end.

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