Second SLS Qualification Booster Test Fire Scheduled for June 28

A full-scale, test version of the booster for NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, will fire up for the second of two qualification ground tests June 28 at prime contractor Orbital ATK's test facility in Promontory, Utah. File photo after the QM-1 test fire in 2015. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

A full-scale, test version of the booster for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System, will fire up for the second of two qualification ground tests June 28 at prime contractor Orbital ATK’s test facility in Promontory, Utah. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

The solid rocket booster that will propel NASA’s skyscraper-size, 300-plus-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion spacecraft in the coming years marked off a significant development milestone in March 2015, unleashing its fury on a barren mountainside at Orbital ATK’s test stand in Promontory, Utah, for the Qualification Motor-1 test fire (QM-1). The 154-foot-long booster, the largest of its kind in the world, ignited to verify its performance at 90 degrees, the highest end of the booster’s accepted propellant temperature range and the temperature the SLS can expect to encounter at its Florida launch site on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39B.

Detailed inspections of the now disassembled booster took place over the course of 2015, with all the data collected confirming the QM-1 test as a resounding success. More than 500 instrumentation channels were used to help evaluate over 100 defined test objectives, and now work is underway at the test stand preparing the second booster for another test fire, Qualification Motor-2 (QM-2), which is scheduled to take place June 28, 2016.

The first of 10 flight segments for the two solid-rocket boosters of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was cast last month at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

The first of 10 flight segments for the two solid-rocket boosters of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was cast last month at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

A cold-temperature test, at a target of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the low end of the propellant temperature range, is planned for QM-2 before the hardware testing to support qualification of the boosters for flight will be complete, at which point Orbital ATK will be ready to proceed toward the first flight of the SLS, an uncrewed mission to validate the entire integrated system, currently scheduled to fly on the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in late 2018 (at the earliest and likely to slip further).

“We are making significant progress in preparation for the second qualification test,” said Bruce Tiller, deputy manager of the SLS Boosters Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Marshall manages the SLS Program for the agency. “The completion of these qualification tests is crucial in getting the boosters certified for the first two flights of SLS and staying the course for the journey to Mars.”

Last September engineers successfully tested the booster thrust vector control and avionics systems during an off-motor hot-fire test to simulate the test cycle that will be used in the QM-2 test fire this summer, which will closely resemble flight conditions. The thrust vector control and avionics system successfully provided the required command and control of the motor nozzle position during the QM-1 test fire, and the same is expected of QM-2.

The thrust vector control system steers the rocket nozzle based on commands passed through the booster avionics system made up of hardware, software, and operating systems that will communicate with the SLS avionics system and ground operations. The avionics also will control booster operations, like motor firing and separation motor ignition.

Small voids were previously discovered prior to QM-1 between the propellant and outer casing of the booster’s aft segment, which demanded a lengthy investigation and trouble-shooting effort by Orbital ATK and NASA to determine root cause(s) and corrective actions before they could move forward with booster testing for QM-1 (which had been significantly delayed due to the issue). The problem which significantly delayed QM-1, however, doesn’t appear to be an issue with the QM-2 booster.

“Finding no defects in the segment insulation we’ve inspected is a huge accomplishment for our teams, and something that hasn’t been done on past NASA programs,” says Tiller. “That’s a testament to the work we’ve put in on refining our manufacturing processes and materials.”

With QM-1 there have been four fully developed, five-segment SRBs fired up on Orbital ATK’s Promontory, Utah, T-97 test stand since 2009, with the most recent prior to QM-1 having been conducted in 2011, and all performed fine. The first three tests, known as the Development Motor test series (DM-1, DM-2, and DM-3), helped engineers measure the new SRB’s performance at low temperature, verify design requirements of new materials in the motor joints, and gather performance data about upgrades made to the booster since the space shuttle program.

The five-segment SLS boosters will burn for the same amount of time as the old shuttle boosters—two minutes—but they will provide 20 percent more power, while also providing more than 75 percent of the thrust needed for the rocket to escape the Earth’s gravity.

“Ground tests are very important – we strongly believe in testing before flight to ensure lessons-learned occur on the ground and not during a mission,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division and four-time space shuttle astronaut. “With each test we have learned things that enable us to modify the configuration to best meet the needs for the upcoming first flight.”

An Orbital ATK five-segment solid rocket booster igniting on the test stand in Promontory, Utah on March 11, 2015, unleashing 3.6 million pounds of thrust within a second for the Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1) test fire for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

An Orbital ATK five-segment solid rocket booster igniting on the test stand in Promontory, Utah, on March 11, 2015, unleashing 3.6 million pounds of thrust within a second for the Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1) test fire for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

The first of 10 flight segments for the boosters that will be employed on that first SLS flight, EM-1, was recently cast as well. A couple weeks ago workers filled the insulated metal case of a booster aft segment with propellant and let it solidify, or “cure,” for several days.

The five-segment solid rocket booster has been in development for years, having been initially designed to launch NASA’s Ares rockets for the agency’s cancelled Constellation program. The booster is similar to the four-segment SRBs that helped launch NASA’s now retired space shuttle fleet, but it’s larger and incorporates several upgrades and improvements.

Orbital ATK also received a $47 million contract from the U.S. Air Force earlier this year for development of something similar: “a solid rocket propulsion system prototype to support the EELV program for national security space missions.” The rocket, if it ever manifests into reality, would use VAB high-bay 2 at KSC and launch off pad 39B—the same pad as SLS.

Although the boosters themselves will provide 75 percent of the power needed to break Earth’s hold, the SLS will still employ four engines of its own—former (upgraded) liquid-fueled space shuttle RS-25 engines—which are currently at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi undergoing their own series of tests.

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31 comments to Second SLS Qualification Booster Test Fire Scheduled for June 28

  • Pedro Gonzalez

    These SLS tests make me feel young again. Testing the shuttle main engines and solid rocket boosters … it’s just like 1976 again!

    The J-2 engine tests are like 1966.

    Actually, it’s pretty sad. This really is your grandfather’s NASA.

    • Pedro,
      in celebration of their 100th anniversary, Aviation Week & Space Technology has digitized and put their entire 100 year archive on-line. I believe that for now everyone is welcome to view the archive, not just us subscribes.

      The March 23, 1964 issue has long piece on the original Lockheed 156″ dia SRB test segment & test.
      Sigh… back in those days, AvWeek was for geared toward engineers so there’s lots of juicy technical details. Check it out, you’ll love it. Go to archive.aviationweek.com

  • Conway Costigan

    Sure “Pedro”. Another sock puppet of the NewSpace trolls that squat here. 3.6 million pounds of thrust is….awesome.

    • Conway Costigan

      That was not Conway Costigan. I have posted an open letter to Jim Hillhouse on my blog but despite my requests the moderators do nothing.

      A 20-35 million pound thrust launch vehicle using twin monolithic solid rocket boosters and hydrogen upper stage is what we need to the moon to harvest ice for shielding on a nuclear powered spacecraft. That is the only real path beyond cis lunar space. There is no cheap.

      • Conway Costigan

        The 3:57 comment was not Conway Costigan, it was the son of a bitch trying to shut me down that the editors won’t do anything about.

        • Gary's Drinking Game

          1 drink every time Gary says “hobby rocket” or “Toxic Dragon”.
          2 drink every time Gary accuses someone of cyberbullying while he is cyberbullying
          1 shot every time Gary uses one of his sock-puppet accounts to say another post wasn’t from his sock-puppet account.
          Down the pint when Gary says he’s not posting anymore…. again.

          DRINK 1 SHOT!

    • Pedro Gonzalez

      Sure “Conway.” The S-1C first stage of the Saturn V produced 7.5 million pounds of thrust and it flew 48 years ago. That was … awesome.

    • TomDPerkins

      Getting a pound into orbit at a an increasingly affordable rate is awesome. It would have been awesome for NASA to have adopted SpaceX’s approach post Apollo, but instead they did their real job of distributing as many Congressional dollars as could be tolerated to key Congressional districts at around $8,000/lb to LEO.

      “A 20-35 million pound thrust launch vehicle using twin monolithic solid rocket boosters and hydrogen upper stage is what we need to the moon to harvest ice for shielding on a nuclear powered spacecraft. That is the only real path beyond cis lunar space. There is no cheap.”

      Utterly meaningless gobbledygook. What cannot be afforded will not be attempted.

      You should instead consider what is possible, and how that will be made to work.

      • Conway Costigan

        “Utterly meaningless gobbledygook. What cannot be afforded will not be attempted.”

        You do understand it was a NewSpace troll that posted that and not Conway? What a bunch of fools.

        • TomDPerkins

          Considering the sockpuppets Gary Church uses, I know of no reason to believe you…

          …And it is certainly consistent with both his style of argument and his, ahem, “engineering approach”.

          • Conway Costigan

            I don’t care if you believe me or not since you are a NewSpace groupie just like the trolls trying to silence me. You have no credibility or integrity to back up anything you have to say about me. So shut up.

            • TomDPerkins

              No I am trying to silence no one.

              I quite equally enjoy the posts by the “fake” and the “real” Gary Church. They are equally fact and logic free invective railing against the reality that OldSpace is quite deservedly moldering and awaiting burial, and the future self evidently respects economic reality –> costs will decline towards and most likel below $250/lb to LEO. Technology will obviate the need for dumb mass to be used as GCR shielding, and no Orions will ever fly or be needed…

              …Even though by 2100 even at a Relativity limited pace will be spreading throughout the solar system.

              Starting with hobby rockets.

              • Conway Costigan

                “I quite equally enjoy the posts by the “fake” and the “real” Gary Church.”

                Shows exactly what you are. You don’t even get what a creep you sound like.

                • TomDPerkins

                  Says the guy who is specifically asked by me to politely defend his position with facts and logic, yet you have none.

                  And then you go around claiming we want to shut him up when what we want is for you to make sense.

                  We want you to have your say. Our replying has no capability to shut you up, but only you can make what you write worth reading for it’s own sake as opposed to the entertainment value of torquing a willing crank.

                  • Conway Costigan

                    “-asked by me to politely defend his position-”

                    You insane toxic bizarro troll- completely out to lunch. As if you deserve any polite or civil discourse you evil spoiled brat.

      • James

        TomDPerkins –

        “Utterly meaningless gobbledygook. What cannot be afforded will not be attempted.”

        Wow! Is that a precise description of our President’s inane international Mars soon human spaceflight policy!

        I’m impressed! Please tell the President and his confused political space friends ASAP.

        • TomDPerkins

          Especially when, even if it is funded, they need to bring along steaks to celebrate their arrival with the SpaceX people who are already there.

          • James

            Nope! Wrong again.

            But NASA might lead high risk international rescue missions to bring Doctors and Nurses to try to provide medical care for radiation sick nonscientificly based private Russian roulette Mars mission folks.

            Getting to Mars hasn’t really been all that difficult for many decades.

            Getting healthy people to Mars and keeping them healthy while exploring and/or colonizing Mars has been the show stopper.

            It isn’t a question of rocket science. It involves many biological issues and lots of unknowns.

            Unfortunately, our current life support systems, like our rockets, lack robust reliability.

            Our current Galactic Cosmic Radiation shielding requirements for young women on Mars journeys and the Martian surface are about one meter of lead for maintaining their health.

            Psychological issues and our social norms and laws probably mean it is unacceptable for pregnant young woman on Mars to be kept buried in small habs under one meter of lead or six meters of Martian dirt. And there is also the unknown of the health effects for a developing fetus under the 0.376 gravity of Mars.

            Colonies do need healthy babies and adults, don’t they? Or is the health of folks on Mars a trivial issue?

            Oh, I forgot, Martian astronauts and their families back on far distant Earth have no recourse to American courts. Hmmm, some billionaires might want to rethink that sentence if they want to keep their money.

            And “only you can make what you write worth reading for it’s own sake as opposed to the entertainment value” of the gullible nonscientific and “Utterly meaningless gobbledygook” SpaceX fans continue to spew across the Internet in full support of our highly partisan President’s strange logic of ‘the Moon is too costly and easy, so instead let’s go to Mars soon with SpaceX leading international missions’.

            Yep, the international political leadership’s enthusiasm for SpaceX led Mars missions has been zip.

            The Moon capable SLS and Orion could be of considerable interest to the leaders of many countries if we had a President who was willing to listen to scientific and technical advice and implement our current Moon centric 2010 NASA Authorization Act. However, America’s space laws apparently don’t mean much to our current President.

            Or as Jim Hillhouse politely put it on April 24, 2016 At: http://www.americaspace.com/?p=93076#comments
            “We currently live under the 2010 NASA Authorization Act because of a mix of Administration resistance and politics. I’m just thankful that the 2010 Act has been a good guide.” And, “Members of Congress who deal with space do know we need to next shoot for the Moon.”

            • TomDPerkins

              Prove a word of it. And then even what factual claim is true, then prove it has significance you want it to have.

              In fact, from some of what you’ve said, I believe you are yet another sockpuppet of the fool Gary Church who’s never read an actual report on GCRs and how to ameliorate their potential damage to space travelers in his life, which if he didn’t like it, he didn’t discard.

              Who should care if there is no international enthusiasm for Musk sending a probe or a colony to Mars? I hope if the permission of the USG is required legally, that he gets it. The international community can go pound sand if it thinks it has a right to tell a US citizen not to launch from US territory onto what is legally by treaty mandated to be terra nullius.

              “Oh, I forgot, Martian astronauts and their families back on far distant Earth have no recourse to American courts. Hmmm, some billionaires might want to rethink that sentence if they want to keep their money.”

              I hope there will be civil war in this country before the USG or any jurisdictin in it is permitted again to make slaves of people openly–although with Obamacare really tightening the noose on doctors and other medical care providers, it’s a sadly open question of how far it will be permitted to go when the politically unpopular classes are concerned. It almost seems you are hopeful of it if it puts Uncle Sam’s boot on a Martian colony begun by SpaceX. There is also the fact he doesn’t want to keep his money, he wants to spend it on an effort to colonize Mars.

              And no, all that mass is not required to ameliorate the GCR radiation damage threat to the human body or gametes. Neither is there any reason to think 1/3rd part gravity alters human development unacceptably, nor even that if it does, that spinning habs are an insufficient fix. There is particularly not the least reason to think there are any psychological issues inherent to growing up in built as opposed to wide open areas, especially when open areas can be safely visited. If children can so much as focus on distances over several hundred feet away with regularity, they’re fine, and there’s no reason to think that opportunity to view such sight lines will not be constructed within a few decades of the colonization process in an entirely shielded environment.

              Musk wants to go to Mars and put a colony there.

              If it ends up a failed backwater, fine. It’s his money. In the process, we solve a lot of problems that work elsewhere.

              If he changes his mind and colonizes deep space, that’s good too, so what?

              In the meantime, he and NewSpace are doing what NASA and it’s pet contractors who had pet Congressman could/would not do in the 40 years they had the opportunity to do it, which is drop the cost of access to space to something which is economically rational with respect to the technology we now have. On the current curve that price will fall to $750/lb by the end of the next decade, and may well fall to $250/lb. It is plausible that even with liquid propellant combustion rockets which are conceptually like the ones built by Goddard in the 1920s, the the cost will fall all the way to $40/lb, at least for fully loaded refuel/refly SHLV vehicles.

              Insisting that booster stacks which are designed to cost more money than they need to like the SLS are something any government money should be put to is decision which is rational only from a political standpoint. The SLS should be cancelled because it can be done better and cheaper by putting a contract out for bid for a refuel/refly 150ton or better to LEO launch to take place in 2021 for a lump sum of 5 billion (the SLS is projected to cost 35 billion over it’s lifetime five total anticipated launches).

              Musk will get it done by then and for that money. Nobody loses but the contractors who farm Congressmen, and they should lose, and there is of right no reason they should win. The vehicle thus built will be available for hire and cost about $300million a launch there after. Uncle Sam could hire it as often as he wants. If the government hires it a whole lot, Musk will build another one.

              There will be no Martian colonies or lunar settlements, or any human expansion past LEO at $8,000/lb in 1980 dollars. We will go extinct on this planet at that price and dependent on a politically entwined and utterly government dependent space access industry. The SLS to go by past government history in such ventures will end up at $25,000/lb of lift capacity over the five currently anticipated launches. It will not continue.

              Which is fine, it is not needed.

              No matter where we go.

              As opposed to, “there is no cheap”, reality dictates that, “there will be nothing too disastrously expensive”. No number of votes which aren’t even there for it can change that.

  • James

    Awesome is the word for the SLS. The SLS reopens the ‘humans on the Moon door’. And that’s a much better deal than high risk and infrequent missions to distant Mars.

    Awesome might also be used for an Angara A5 type launcher based on a central Antares core surrounded by four other Antares cores. That might get you around 5,000,000 lbs of thrust at liftoff.

    Or how about an Angara A5 type launcher based on a central Antares core surrounded by two other Antares cores and two SLS Solid Rocket Boosters. That might get you around 10,000,000 lbs of thrust at liftoff.

    Or how about an Angara A5 type launcher based on a central Antares XXX core surrounded by four SLS Solid Rocket Boosters. That might get you around 15,000,000 lbs of thrust at liftoff.

    There sure are lots of possibilities for Orbital ATK to haul cargo to LEO, geosynchronous orbit, and the Moon.

    And the Moon is the legal destination for the SLS. Ahhh, the Moon!

    And for anyone that has a deep need to brag about Terraforming…

    “All told, colonizing and/or terraforming the Moon would be comparatively easy compared to other bodies. Due to its proximity, the time it would take to transport people and equipment to and from the surface would be significantly reduced, as would the costs of doing so. In addition, it’s proximity means that extracted resources and products manufactured on the Moon could be shuttled to Earth in much less time, and a tourist industry would also be feasible.”
    From:”How Do We Terraform The Moon?” March 31, 2016 By Matt Williams At: http://www.universetoday.com/121140/could-we-terraform-the-moon/

    Yikes, don’t tell anyone that the Moon has much better business and Terraforming opportunities than Mars! That’s a super duper secret that even the President of America cannot be trusted with…

  • James

    “Next, the scientists searched the lunar mare for signs of lava tubes with no visible surface features. They found at least 10 large candidates, some nearly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide and stretching over 60 miles (100 km) in length.

    But even more tubes that are too small to be picked up by GRAIL could exist as well, Sood noted.”

    From: ‘Lunar Shelter: Moon Caves Could Protect Astronauts’ By Nola Taylor Redd, May 5, 2016 At: http://www.space.com/32795-moon-lava-tubes-protect-astronauts.html

    Those lava tubes could be quite useful for protecting future Lunar ISRU colonies from nasty Galactic Cosmic Radiation.

    Without those caves the astronauts would need about 1.25 meters of lead or six meters of Lunar dirt for Galactic Cosmic Radiation shielding.

    Yep, the nifty SLS and international Orion could be used to help enable the exploration and colonization of those useful Moon caves.

    Not only will the SRBs help power the launch of the Lunar mission SLS/Orion, those impressively powerful SRBs could also help power the liftoff of other very large Lunar mission capable launchers.

    Hmmmm, and for anyone who simply thinks those large caves on the Moon are too small for sheltering ISRU colonies, there is always the Top Secret Lunar Terraforming Option.

    • se jones

      lead for Galactic Cosmic Radiation shielding?

      You give yourself away.

    • Conway Costigan

      se jones, jester gambolt, tomdperkins, clio marsden, vladislaw, jeff findley, john hare, and the list goes on and on.

      These SpaceX groupies own this site James. They are going to eventually troll you into oblivion like they have me. I suggest we both find someplace to discuss reality without the flying monkey army slinging crap at us. The problem is, they have hijacked every public forum that space enthusiasts visit. Rihan at Spaceflight insider simply does not allow any kind of comments critical of anything anymore and may as well not even have a comments section. Everything else has been completely taken over or is run by the NewSpace Mob.

      • TomDPerkins

        Can it possibly be Gary Church is so simple minded he thinks that obvious sockpuppetry might convincingly simulate a ground swell of support for 14 feet of ice hulled, atom bomb propelled space dreadnoughts zipping around, starting at $25,000/lb ?

        • Conway Costigan

          You are a bizarro rabid groupie that mocks and insults anyone with a different opinion and that’s the plain truth. Sounds like you are the whale crap that has been posting using my name. Zero honesty or integrity.

          “-the cost will fall all the way to $40/lb-”

          Your B.S. is ridiculous.

          • TomDPerkins

            “You are a bizarro rabid groupie that mocks and insults anyone with a different opinion”

            The key points you are missing is, you have several opinions about a technical topic about which I do know something, and you bring no facts to the table to justify your “opinion”.

            I have never sockpuppeted yet and will never. That’s all your deal, Billgamesh, Duequesne, Conestaga, Gary Church or whatever hell you chose to call yourself.

            So you think this is ridiculous –> “-the cost will fall all the way to $40/lb-”

            After the metal gets paid for, the gas is cheap.

            If the fuel for the BFR costs the same per pound as the fuel for the Falcon does, then if the $300,000 in fuel a Falcon burns about 1,110,000 pounds of is proportional to the BFR burning approximately 36,000,000 pounds of for $9,720,000 dollars in fuel cost.

            That’s only $8.84/lb to LEO in fuel cost, so yes, after the metal is paid for and the development costs are amortized why do you think it has to be more expensive than about $40/lb?

            And they won’t pay that much for the fuel because:
            A) larger bulk buy
            B) methane is way cheaper than RP1

            Whatever you’ve been smoking, put reality in your pipe and smoke that.

            • Conway Costigan

              LOL….you are hilarious. Gonna pay your 40 dollars a pound for your space station vacation huh? Pin on your astronaut wings and strut down the grocery store aisle. You are such a pathetic joke. You and your troll buddies are the proof that NewSpace is garbage and the worst thing to ever happen to space exploration. Sick twisted juvenile space clown wannabes.

      • James

        Conway –

        “They are going to eventually troll you into oblivion like they have me.”

        Not likely. Get me banned, sure.

        A drug dealer who had killed five people said he was going to kill me next. I told him “Maybe, but not today.”

        Another person stuck a shotgun in my gut and told me to do something. I said, “No.” And walked away.

        Yep, getting trolled doesn’t worry me. Consider how we ‘trolled’, ‘banned’, and ‘rewarded’ Jesus.

        I was taught to speak my mind and not fear nonsense from those with power.

        Failure to speak up when I should have, now that really scares me.

        I usually carry a small cross in my pocket. The story of how I ended up with that cross makes me smile and laugh.

        Have a great week Conway!