Last Saturday (16) NASA carried out the first test of the SLS rocket, developed 10 years ago, with the objective of testing its four engines. Unfortunately, its execution culminated in a critical failure and therefore had to be stopped ahead of schedule. The super-heavy launch vehicle is the entity’s main bet for the Artemis mission, which seeks to take humanity back to the Moon in 2024.
The Space Launch System (SLS) is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever designed. It is derived from the old American space shuttle system and is classified as a super heavy launch vehicle, having four engines. Its first launch was scheduled for 2017, but ended up being postponed several times – astronomically inflating its budget – and now has its debut scheduled for November 2021.
The first test of the SLS aimed to evaluate the performance of its four engines, in full action, during the period of approximately eight minutes. However, the test had to be stopped shortly after 60 seconds, after the technical team detected a “critical component failure” in the fourth engine followed by a brief flash. According to NASA, the test interruption was automated and performed immediately, safely, by the vehicle’s own on-board system.
The researchers expected at least about 4 minutes of testing in order to obtain the necessary data, however, they believe that the test that took place last Saturday (16) provided enough information to improve the performance of the launch vehicle. During the period evaluated, about 1400 sensors monitored several aspects of the SLS, such as component stress, temperature, vibration and acoustics.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine comments on the case: “I think it may well be something that can easily be fixed and we can feel confident going down to the Cape and meeting the schedule,” he explains.