Halted Rocket Test Could Stall NASA Moon Shot, Redo Possible

James Marshall
January 20, 2021

In a January 19 statement, NASA said the hydraulic system for Engine 2 on the core stage "exceeded the pre-set test limits that had been established" for the Green Run test.

Although the countdown and engines' ignition proceeded successfully, NASA said a malfunction occurred a little more than one minute into the hot fire, and the engines shut down.

Retesting the engines could further delay the multi-billion dollar program that is already years behind schedule and by some measures, is about 30% over budget. NASA didn't immediately answer whether the weekend's curtailed test firing would affect that schedule.

If the same issue happened during an actual flight, NASA said a backup unit would have kicked in and the rocket would continue flying.

The recent Green Run test was slated to be a part of the 1 rocket launch out of Cape Canaveral for an uncrewed mission known as Artemis I, which is expected to send the Orion spacecraft of NASA around the moon. This duration would allow them to get all the engineering data to gain confidence in the vehicle, which was gathered by over 1,400 sensors he stated. As a result, the hydraulic pressure dropped below the limit and triggered the engine shutdown. "Despite an early engine shutdown, NASA engineers will have a wealth of information to use to improve future tests of the SLS system". "You want to launch with full redundancy". NASA officials have said preparing for a retest would take at least a month. On Tuesday, the agency said that the "temperatures in the core stage engine section were normal" and that the thermal blankets used to protect the engines from the extreme heat "did their job and protected the rocket".

In the private briefing, officials said there were no "indications of any leaks or fire".

The core also generated a "major component failure" (MCF) reading during Saturday's test.

"We have to remember that the rocket we just tested is the rocket that is going to launch Orion around the Moon", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a briefing after the January 16 test.

"Seeing all four engines ignite for the first time during the core stage hot fire test was a big milestone for the Space Launch System team", said John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. If there's a problem with engine four, NASA can swap it with a spare RS-25 that it has left over from the Shuttle program, but that won't do the trick if there's a problem with the way the engines are integrated with the rocket itself. NASA and Boeing officials had noted that to indicate engineers were very familiar with the engines and were confident the systems would perform as expected.

In what should have been a roughly eight-minute hot fire test on Saturday at the Stennis Space Center in MS, the rockets that will be responsible for carrying NASA's Artemis 1 mission to the moon and back stopped after just one minute.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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