Toward launch: NASA completes the test of Artemis I lunar landing rocket

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Toward launch: NASA completes the test of Artemis I lunar landing rocket

Tom whiteeyer, deputy director of the joint exploration system at NASA headquarters, said: “During the wet rehearsal, we gradually increased our knowledge of how the rocket and ground systems work together. Our team has mastered the launch procedures at multiple locations. We have completed the rehearsal phase, and everything we have learned will help improve our ability to take off during the target launch window. The team is now ready to take the next step and prepare for the launch.”

In Monday’s drill, the teams verified the launch schedule and procedures, including loading low-temperature or ultra-low-temperature propellant into the rocket’s fuel tank, countdown to launch through handover with the automatic launch sequencer, and emptying the fuel tank. The drill focused on two primary objectives and several secondary objectives, which were used to help ensure that the team was ready to launch in the Artemis I flight test.

Toward launch: NASA completes the test of Artemis I lunar landing rocket(1)

Demonstrate the low temperature loading operation through all stages of propellant loading and enter the terminal countdown, execute the cycle to T-10 minutes, count down the terminal for the second time, scrub and execute propellant discharge operation and safety activities; Demonstrate the launch countdown configuration of the Kennedy facility launch site-39 and the launch control center, and demonstrate the operations and connections required to support the launch control team, the support launch team, the eastern range of the 45th delta space force, the network, and the design center on the day of launch.

Demonstrate the successful interfaces between the Kennedy launch control center and the Marshall SLS engineering support center, the delta operation center of the 45th space force and the Johnson flight control and mission evaluation room, including communication, monitoring of rocket and spacecraft operation television and telemetry of launch day configuration; Collect the launch configuration loads, low temperature induced deflection, thermal data during low temperature loading and discharge and images of aircraft performance of Orion, SLS and mobile launchers; Verify roll out and roll back schedules / procedures, launch countdown, launch window, including completion of recovery and time set for the next t-0; During the planned flight termination system test, collect data on electromagnetic interference and compatibility with the aircraft and the eastern range system of the 45th delta space force configured for the launch date; Assemble and arrange red crew, fire rescue team, medical team and other supporting launch teams.

By going deep into the final stage of the countdown, when many key activities occurred rapidly and continuously – called terminal counting, the team exercised all the assets and capabilities of the entire system: SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft and exploration ground systems – including at launch site 39B and other support sites.

Although a liquid hydrogen leak was found earlier in the day when the pressure was increased to regulate the engine, the team was able to develop a plan to enter the terminal count, and it is expected that the countdown will stop after the flight software handed over to the automatic launch sequencer. In order to confirm that the engine temperature is within the acceptable range, the team checked the software until the engine start sequence point of t-9.34 seconds and operated correctly — if the temperature exceeds this range, the countdown will be stopped at any time, just like in the actual launch attempt.

“The team continues to impress me with their creative thinking and wit,” said Charlie Blackwell thomaspson, Kennedy’s Artemis launch director. “Our Artemis launch team has worked quickly to adapt to the dynamics of propellant loading operations. With each milestone and test, we are one step closer to launch.”

Toward launch: NASA completes the test of Artemis I lunar landing rocket(2)

Because the launch team has a long day, the launch supervisor chooses to run once in the terminal count. Based on the experience of loading operation and simulation, it is not necessary to retest to prove the ability to recover and reset the terminal count again. In addition, as part of the normal procedures after the countdown, the teams successfully completed a set of “safe” or stabilization and reconfiguration steps.

The engineers reviewed a few commands within seconds of the countdown before the engine start sequence, and determined that these activities had previously been verified in other recent tests. The remaining commands are not part of the objective, but the team has decided to include additional checks early in the countdown because they have fine tuned the procedures, such as the engine purge bleed parameters and the propellant feeder heater used to adjust the engine to a specific temperature range for launch. Doing these checks early in the countdown will provide the team with the best position to achieve the target launch window.

Before returning to VAB, the engineer will also increase the inspection of booster hydraulic power unit to provide additional data for the countdown plan. These units contain a hydrazine power turbine connected to a pump, which will provide pressure to be used to guide the rotation of the booster nozzle of the rocket during ascent. The automatic launch sequencer sends the command to start the hydraulic power unit at T-28 seconds, which will occur after the point when the flight software cuts off the countdown at t-29 seconds.

Once entering the VAB, the team will replace a seal at the quick disconnect of the umbilical of the tail service mast to solve the problem of liquid hydrogen leakage detected during the drill. NASA plans to return the SLS and Orion to the launch pad in late August and set a specific target launch date after replacing the hardware related to the leak.

Toward launch: NASA completes the test of Artemis I lunar landing rocket(3)

Artemis I will be the first comprehensive test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket and supporting ground system. As the first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will pave the way for long-term exploration on the moon to prepare for human missions to Mars.