Rocket booster for future Moon missions
The latest moon rocket of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) completed the flight support booster (FSB) test on 2 September 2020 as the American space agency prepared its Space Launch System (SLS) to fly astronauts for the Moon mission in the near future. The two-minute test was broadcast live from Promontory, Utah. Results from this test will also be used after the Artemis 3 mission to prepare the builds for booster rockets.
- Artemis 3 is planned to take place in 2024 but the agency is focusing on designing its own rockets and spacecraft to be ready for potential missions now.
- Northrop Grumman has performed five test firings of the five-segment SLS booster, through its predecessor company Orbital ATK since 2009.
- The 2 September 2020 test comes around two months after the SLS core fired up in July for a “green sprint” test, slightly later than expected due to the novel coronavirus pandemic slowing things down through physical distancing and shipping delays.
- NASA video shows the horizontal booster firing up against the dark, hilly landscape on its test stand and sending out orange flames.
- The booster was expected to fire 3.6 million pounds of thrust upon ignition and remain active for 122 seconds, but it will release the exact performance metrics at a later date. Minutes after the test ended, steam from the heat of the flames kept rising from the ground.
- NASA increased the cost estimate for SLS development on August 27 and said it notified the US Congress, as it is mandated to do when costs exceed the approved budget by 30 per cent.
- The baseline cost of the development is now $9.1 billion, said Kathy Lueders, director of the human space flight program. In 2014 the approximate SLS baseline was $7.02 billion.
- In November 2021, the first SLS flight is scheduled to see the rocket carrying an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon for a test mission to prepare all systems for possible human flights.
- After that, in preparation for a human landing the following year, a flight of 2023 is scheduled to carry a crew of astronauts around the Moon.