As NASA starts to put together the boosters for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will make the first Artemis mission to the Moon possible, teams in Utah are assessing materials and processes in order to enhance rocket boosters for use on expeditions after Artemis III.
NASA managed to complete a full-scale booster test for its SLS rocket in Promontory, Utah, on September 2nd. The American space agency and Northrop Grumman, the SLS booster lead contractor, will employ data from the test to analyze the motor’s performance using potential new materials and processes that can be included in future boosters.
NASA has a contract with Northrop Grumman to develop boosters for future rocket expeditions.
“Landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon is just the beginning of NASA’s Artemis Program,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The SLS flight support booster firing is a crucial part of sustaining missions to the Moon. NASA’s goal is to take what we learn living and working on the Moon and use it to send humans on the first missions to Mars.”
For about two minutes, the five-part flight support booster fired in the Utah desert, generating over three million pounds of thrust. The two agencies have earlier completed three development motor tests and two qualification motor tests.
The test on September 2nd, called Flight Support Booster-1 (FSB-1), adds to prior trials with the introduction of propellant compositions from new suppliers for boosters on SLS rockets.
“NASA is simultaneously making progress on assembling and manufacturing the solid rocket boosters for the first three Artemis missions and looking ahead toward missions beyond the initial Moon landing,” said John Honeycutt, the SLS Program Manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Today marks the first flight support booster test to confirm the rocket motor’s performance using potential new materials for Artemis IV and beyond.”
The SLS boosters are the most massive and most powerful boosters every created for flight. The flight support booster utilized in the test has an identical size and power as the flight variant of a five-segment solid rocket booster used for NASA’s Artemis expeditions. The Artemis I boosters are now being prepared for launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“This flight support booster test is the first motor firing NASA and Northrop Grumman have completed since qualifying the booster design for the Space Launch System rocket,” said Bruce Tiller, SLS Boosters Office Manager at Marshall. “Full-scale booster tests are rare, so NASA tries to test multiple objectives at one time, so we are highly confident that any changes we make to the boosters will still enable them to perform as expected on launch day.”
NASA is currently working on landing the first woman and a man on the Moon by 2024. The SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway, and human landing system are all a part of NASA’s programs for deep space exploration.
The Artemis project is the next achievement in human space exploration as part of the U.S. expanded Moon to Mars exploration methods. Experience gained at the Moon will allow humanity to make the next massive step: landing humans on Mars.