NASA and ATK have completed installing the first Space Launch System booster qualification motor, QM-1, in a specialized test stand in Utah. The largest solid rocket motor ever built for flight, QM-1 is now being prepared for its static-fire test, which is scheduled for March 11.
“Testing before flight is critical to ensure reliability and safety when launching crew into space,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president and general manager of ATK’s Space Launch division. “The QM-1 static test is an important step in further qualifying this new five-segment solid rocket motor for the subsequent planned missions to send astronauts to deep space.”
For this test, QM-1 is being conditioned to 90 degrees to test its higher temperature capabilities against the required temperature range. Lying horizontally in the test stand, the motor is 154 feet in length and 12 feet in diameter. When fired, QM-1 will produce 3.6 million pounds of maximum thrust.
“What’s impressive about this test is when ignited, the booster will be operating at about 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or 22 million horsepower,” said Alex Priskos, manager of the SLS Boosters Office at Marshall. “This test firing is critical to enable validation of our design.”
Some 103 design objectives will be measured through more than 534 instrumentation channels on the booster. It will be heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit to measure solid rocket booster performance at high temperatures, as well as to demonstrate that it meets applicable structural and ballistic requirements.
Other objectives include data gathering on vital motor upgrades, such as the new insulation and booster case liner and the redesigned nozzle, which increases the robustness of the design.
“The improvements we’ve made to the SLS boosters, like new insulation materials, will make them more environmentally friendly, safe and affordable,” said Bruce Tiller, deputy manager of the SLS Boosters Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Marshall manages the SLS Program for the agency.
The five-segment rocket motor in conjunction with four RS-25 engines will propel NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) off the launch pad . The SLS, along with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, provides a flexible deep space exploration platform to take humans and cargo to multiple destinations across our solar system.
“With RS-25 engine testing underway, and this qualification booster firing coming up, we are taking big steps toward building this rocket and fulfilling NASA’s mission of Mars and beyond,” said SLS Program Manager Todd May. “This is the most advanced propulsion system ever built and will power this rocket to places we’ve never reached in the history of human spaceflight.”
Orion successfully experienced its first flight test in December, orbiting twice around the earth and flying as far away as 3,600 miles, more than 15 times farther than the International Space Station and farther than a human spaceflight vehicle has traveled in 40 years. The first test flight of SLS, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), is just a few years away. EM-1 will use two of ATK’s five-segment solid rocket motors.
The SLS boosters will be used for the first two, 70-metric-ton flights of the SLS. One SLS booster is approximately 177 feet long, 12 feet in diameter and weighs 801 tons.
The SLS five-segment motor is based on the design heritage of the flight-proven solid rocket boosters used on the Space Shuttle Program, and was upgraded using new technologies and updated materials. While the shuttle used two, four-segment boosters, SLS will be powered by two, five-segment boosters. The added booster segment contains more solid propellant that allows SLS to lift more weight and reach a higher altitude before the boosters separate from the core stage.
“While we made modifications to our booster for NASA’s new SLS, during the 30 years of the Space Shuttle Program, we also constantly monitored and improved our design,” said Precourt, a four-time space shuttle astronaut.
A second booster qualification test is scheduled for early 2016.
For more information on SLS, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/sls
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