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Four Cool Facts About Our New Rocket’s Booster Test Firing

Four Cool Facts About Our New Rocket’s Booster Test Firing

countdown to our last full-scale test firing of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters has begun
(mark your calendars: June 28, 8:05 a.m. MDT [local time] 10:05 a.m. EDT). SLS is NASA’s new rocket that
can go to deep space destinations, and this test is one more step on our
Journey to Mars. This test will be broadcast live on NASA TV
and our Facebook
page. For those watching at home or work, here are four cool things that might
not be so obvious on the screen.

1. So Hot, It Turns Sand Into


expanding gases and flames exiting the nozzle at speeds in excess of Mach 3 and
temperatures reaching 3,700 degrees Fahrenheit, say goodbye to some of the sand
at Orbital ATK’s test facility in the Utah desert because after the test, the
sand at the aft, or rear, end of the booster motor will be glass.

2. This Motor’s Chill

Four Cool Facts About Our New Rocket’s Booster Test Firing

motor has been chilling — literally, down to 40 degrees — since the first week
in May in Orbital ATK’s “booster house,” a special building on rails that moves
to enclose the booster and rolls back so the motor can be test-fired. Even
though SLS will launch from the normally balmy Kennedy Space Center in Florida,
temperatures can vary there and engineers need to be sure the booster will
perform as expected whether the propellant inside the motor is 40 degrees or 90
degrees (the temperature of the propellant during the first full-scale test,
Qualification Motor 1 or QM-1).

3. This Booster’s on Lockdown


If you
happen to be near Promontory, Utah, on June 28, you can view the test for
yourself in the public viewing area off State Route 83. And don’t worry, this
booster’s not going anywhere — engineers have it locked down. The motor is held
securely in place by Orbital ATK’s T-97 test stand.  During the test, the motor will push against a
forward thrust block with more than three million pounds of force. Holding down
the rocket motor is more than 13 million pounds of concrete — most of which is
underground. The test stand contains a system of load cells that enable
engineers to measure the thrust the motor produces and verify their

4. Next Time, It’s For Real


solid rocket boosters are the largest and most powerful ever built for flight.
They’ve been tested and retested in both full-scale and smaller subsystem-level
tests, and vital parts like the nozzle, insulation and avionics control systems
have been upgraded and revamped. Most of this work was necessary because,
plainly put, SLS needs bigger boosters. Bigger boosters mean bolder missions –
like around the moon during the first integrated mission of SLS and Orion. So
the next time we see these solid rocket motors fire, they will be propelling
SLS off the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center and on its first flight with NASA’s
Orion spacecraft. For

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