Sunflower test of megarocket that will take humans back to the moon

SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft in preparation for the Artemis I mission. NASA/Joel Kowsky. Container

It’s 2:40 p.m. local time in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Monday, June 20, The SLS missile, if all goes well, will pass its last test firing. It will be on Launch Pad 39B, from which the legendary Saturn V took off in 1969 with Apollo 10, bound for our natural satellite. Now the Space Launch System is taking its place. This test, and wet rehearsalWill be Finally before the promising giant takes us back to the place we should never have left: the moon.

What will be tested?

The wet rehearsal It is a rehearsal of all the operations that were performed before launch. The fuel and oxidizer are cryogenic materials, so they cannot be stored in the rocket and must be charged before takeoff. The loading process, along with pre-processes of up to T – 10 seconds, will be tested on June 20. If SLS passes it, everything will be ready for the first launch of the program ArtemisNASA’s ambitious goal is to get humans to set foot on the moon again.

In the case of SLS, some 2.6 million liters between oxygen and liquid hydrogen; Amount of thrusters needed to go around the moon and back (the Artemis I mission will not land on the moon). That amount barely fits in an Olympic pool that’s six feet deep.

NASA has completed the fabrication of a hydrogen tank to be tested for the upper expeditionary stage (EUS) of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.  Container
NASA has completed the fabrication of a hydrogen tank to be tested for the upper expeditionary stage (EUS) of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Container

Heavy weight to handle giant missions

SLS is gigantic. It belongs to the category of super-heavy launchers, necessary to handle gigantic missions such as going to the moon or Mars.

Launchers are typically categorized by the number of kilograms or tons that can be placed in low orbit (LEO). low earth orbitup to about 1,500 km) and those that can put more than 50 tons into LEO are considered superheavy launchers.

That’s more than the heaviest trailer you’ll see on the road packed to the brim. It accelerated to about 28,000 km/h and tuned to orbit the Earth.

The SLS is bigger than that. The first version, called Block-1, with a height of about 100 meters and a total weight of 2,700 tons, will have a loading capacity of 95 tons from LEO. There are still two more versions to come: Block-1B (105 tons in LEO) and Block 2 (130 tons in LEO), because 95 tons in LEO is not enough to meet NASA’s plans to return to the Moon.

Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, in.  Florida.  Container
Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, in. Florida. Container

It is planned to put humans on the moon in 2025

Mass that can be sent toward the Moon (charge in TLI, by lunar injection) is much less than what can be uploaded to LEO. In this case, various versions of the SLS have a loading capacity at TLI of about 27 tons, 40 tons, 45 tons and Every kilogram will count for ambitious plans to set foot on the moon again, which has previously set up an orbital station around it, a gate, from which it departs and descends to its surface. If all goes well, this will happen in 2025 as part of the Artemis III mission.

SLS is for Artemis as Saturn V is for Apollo. And while it might be thought that more than 50 years later Saturn 5 should have largely been surpassed, the truth is that it hasn’t. Globally, the load capacity of both actuators is very similar, for both LEO and TLI. This is if we talk about the Block-2 version of the SLS, because the version that is currently on the launchpad is still very far away.

The SLS had to pass many sunflower tests, and it was political

It may seem strange, but in these topics Politics plays a key role and the situation is very different now than it was in the 1960s. After Kennedy’s famous “We choose to go to the moon” speech, America was a country with a common goal of national pride able to spend for crazy Traveling in an amount that currently equates to about two-thirds of Spain’s annual public budgets. Today, that motive no longer exists. With the alternation of democratic and republican governments, the space programs and launchers are mutually canceled by changing the political label, and the total approved investment is reduced by about ten times. And so, so far, the SLS path has been bumpy.

semi recycled rocket

After the Columbia disaster, NASA had to completely reorganize its strategy. She needed an astronaut transport system to the International Space Station (ISS) to replace the shuttle and wanted to advance the deep space program. The answer was the Constellation program, with Ares I launchers for manned missions to low Earth orbit and Ares V for lunar and Mars missions.

After accumulating several cost overruns and delays, the program was canceled in 2009. But after pressure from companies involved in building the Ares, the Constellation program led to the emergence of the Space Launch System.

Following precedents, the SLS had to be built in a short time and at moderate cost, so Decide to start from existing items, mainly from Space ship. RS-25 Shuttle Surplus and Their Engines booster (Those side missiles that accompanied the legendary orange tank) will serve as the basis for the new missiles.

The idea was to have it up and running before 2017, but despite all the “facilities” the program continues to accumulate delays and cost overruns.

Sections of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS).  Container
Sections of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS). Container

The first release is planned for August 2022

The first launch is expected in August 2022, more than five years later than initially planned. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that one of the many factors that may have contributed to this was NASA’s contracting philosophy for this project, of some sort. Contracting with extra costwhich means that NASA allocates budgets to contractors, but also takes care of any additional costs they may incur.

In fact, Cost overruns and delays mean that the program is nearly out of moneyAnd, given the high price per launch (hard to estimate, but estimated to be around two billion per launch), especially compared to other alternatives, it looks like the SLS might have a bit more travel apart from the Artemis. Even its iconic mission to the outer solar system, the Europa Clipper, has been delegated to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Currently there Several initiatives are made to make it viable outside of the Artemis program, but to do so, it will have to significantly reduce its costs per launch.

However, despite all the difficulties, Artemis is shaped by this giant, and if nothing prevents it, Starting in August, we will be able to start feeling the emotions again by seeing how the road to the moon is being built through the various missions..

The missile can be seen alive and wet rehearsal scheduled for June 20.

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