The final of 10 giant steel work platforms to support launch preparations of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew capsule is now installed in Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) iconic 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), marking a significant milestone in the ongoing evolution of NASA’s spaceport and the historic facility previously used to process all 135 space shuttle launches and the Saturn-V rockets which sent men to the Moon during the Apollo program.
All space shuttle work platforms in High Bay 3 were removed to make way for a new SLS platform system in 2013, and work in High Bay 3 has been underway ever since to receive the 20 platform halves which make up all 10 SLS platforms. The platforms are critical in giving engineers access to the 322-foot-tall rocket and spacecraft prior to being rolled out to Launch Complex 39B a few miles away, where crews will launch on missions to the Moon and beyond over the coming years.
Model of giant SLS rocket gets wind tunnel-tested by NASA Langley
Late next year, the most powerful rocket ever built is set to launch from U.S. soil, boosting an unmanned space capsule farther than humans have gone since the Apollo program — off to circle the moon and back home again.
But before that super-rocket — called the Space Launch System, or SLS — can attempt that milestone, it must first pass muster with NASA.
So for the past several months, scientists and engineers from NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton have been putting a 10-foot model of the 364-foot SLS through its paces in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel, a NASA wind tunnel located at Langley Air Force Base.
The slim, silver rocket model has been pitched and rolled, blasted with chilly refrigerant at speeds up to 900 miles an hour, all to mimic the extreme shuddering and buffeting the real thing will endure as it breaknecks up through the atmosphere.
"One of the most challenging aerodynamic environments that we encounter is as we approach the speed of sound," said research engineer Martin Sekula. "The shock (waves) are moving around on the vehicle, vortices and eddies are being shed off of different parts of the vehicle, and they can impinge on other parts of the rocket. And if these loads are incredibly violent — back in the '60s, they had some launch vehicles that were lost because of this buffeting."
The model is stuffed with about half a mile of wiring for hundreds of sensors embedded just under its skin, many as tiny as a match head. Some are so fragile, Sekula said, "you look at them funny, they break."
But the data they collect help to hone the vehicle that is designed to boost humans on deep-space missions long into the future — to an asteroid, to Mars and beyond.
The first test run at this tunnel last year, for instance, identified vortices that were shedding and creating huge loads on the model, said Sekula.
So they set to work with computational fluid dynamics colleagues and, with an assist from a NASA supercomputer, identified the problem and a good fix.
The rocket is designed as three different configurations, each achieved by swapping out the nose cone on the 200-foot rocket core, depending on whether it is carrying people or payload.
"So it's either got a crew capsule or it's got this cargo configuration where we're carrying equipment out to space to build whatever it is we need to do to get to Mars, to get us on our journey," said Amber Favaregh, deputy lead for the Langley SLS aerodynamics team. "These changes can make a big impact."
The rockets are intended as the new workhorses for NASA's deep-space missions, capable of carrying up to 105 metric tons and ranging in height from 322 feet to 364 feet. That's just a tad taller than the mighty Saturn V, at 363 feet. The Saturn V was built to launch astronauts to the moon and last flew in 1973.
NASA is already working on a fourth configuration that would stand at 365 feet and carry up to 130 metric tons.
This latest buffet test was the third and final entry for the SLS at the wind tunnel. NASA Langley says more versions and configurations will be tested at other NASA facilities over the next year.
"For us, it's been very exciting," said Sekula. "For me, it's awe-inspiring.
"I went down to see a (space) shuttle launch a number of years ago. It was my first launch ever, and it really struck me emotionally. I did not expect it. To see human beings who are leaving our planet. And whenever we're doing this kind of work, I'm always kind of reminded of that moment. It sends chills down my spine that I'm helping to take our species and help them leave the planet. To go to the moon. Maybe on a journey to Mars."
The SLS could be carrying a crew as early as 2021, sending them off to loop around the moon. Such responsibility isn't taken lightly, said Favaregh.
"You don't know what you don't know until something happens," she said. "You definitely just have to prepare, and do your very best to prepare."
When the SLS program first began, the scientists said, meetings would often begin with a brief moment of silence for those astronauts lost in the line of duty.
"Basically, bringing to mind that this is not just, 'hey, we're going to launch a rocket,'" Sekula said. "We're potentially affecting families and our co-workers. This is serious business. And we take it very, very seriously. Because it's dangerous.
"I mean, we're asking people to sit on top of a 300-foot-tall fuel tank, and we're gonna just ignite a match on one end and see what happens? No, we want to be careful. To bring these people home. It kind of brings you back down to Earth, knowing that this is extremely dangerous work, and these people are putting their faith in us."
NASA is developing the SLS with industry partners including Dulles-based Orbital ATK; the Boeing Company, based in Chicago; Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif.; and Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville, Ala.
Quelle: Daily Press
Major Review Completed for NASA’s New SLS Exploration Upper Stage
NASA has successfully completed the exploration upper stage (EUS) preliminary design review for the powerful Space Launch System rocket. The detailed assessment is a big step forward in being ready for more capable human and robotic missions to deep space, including the first crewed flight of SLS and NASA's Orion spacecraft in 2021.
"To send humans and even more cargo farther away from Earth than ever before, NASA decided to add a more powerful upper stage -- the upper part of the rocket that continues to operate after launch and ascent," said Kent Chojnacki, EUS team lead and preliminary design review manager.
"With the completion of this review, our teams will start developing components and materials for the EUS, and build up tooling," he added. "Full-scale manufacturing will begin after the critical design phase is completed." Critical design review is the next programmatic milestone that will provide a final look at the design and development of the EUS before beginning full-scale fabrication.
Starting with that first crewed mission, future configurations of SLS will include the larger exploration upper stage and use four RL10C-3 engines. The EUS will replace the interim cryogenic propulsion stage that will be used on the initial configuration of SLS for the first, uncrewed flight with Orion. The EUS will use an 8.4-meter diameter liquid hydrogen tank and a 5.5-meter diameter liquid oxygen tank. A new universal stage adapter will connect the EUS to the Orion spacecraft, and be capable of carrying large co-manifested payloads, such as a habitat.
The preliminary design review kicked off Nov. 30, 2016, with approximately 500 experts from across NASA and industry assessing more than 320 items on the EUS, including documents and data. This review had a new "techie" touch to it with the incorporation of virtual reality glasses, which gave teams enhanced visuals of how the EUS is put together and a broader perspective on the size of the hardware. The preliminary design review board was completed Jan. 19, with the board voting unanimously that the EUS is ready to move to the critical design phase.
"I couldn’t be prouder of the SLS Stages team completing this review," said SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt. "We continue to make progress on hardware for SLS’s first flight, while also working on the next-generation rocket that will take astronauts to deep-space destinations, like Mars."
The powerful stage will be built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Massive welding machines, like the Vertical Assembly Center, currently building the SLS core stage, also will help build the EUS liquid hydrogen tank. New tooling and assembly areas will be put in place to manufacture the liquid oxygen tank.
Once built, the EUS structural test article will undergo qualification testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to ensure the hardware can withstand the incredible stresses of launch. "Green run" testing on the first flight article will be done at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. For the test, the EUS and RL10 engines will fire up together for the first time before being sent to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the 2021 launch.
Final Work Platform Installed in Vehicle Assembly Building for NASA's Space Launch System
By Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center
NASA reached a key milestone in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A year of platform installations came to conclusion in January as the final work platform, A north, was lifted, installed and secured recently on its rail beam on the north wall of High Bay 3 inside the iconic facility.
The installation of the final topmost level completes the 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platforms halves altogether, that will surround NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft and allow access during processing for missions, including the first uncrewed flight test of Orion atop the SLS rocket.
"Just a year ago, we were meeting the challenges of getting the first half of the first platform installed," said Mike Bolger, Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program manager, "It's a great testament to the creativity, persistence and hard work of the team, and it's a terrific indicator that GSDO is on track to process the SLS and Orion flight hardware for the first test mission."
The A platforms will provide access to the Orion spacecraft's Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion lifting sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. LAS Antenna Testing also is performed on this level.
The platforms were mated with two, 60,000-pound rail beam assemblies that allow the platforms to move towards and away from the vehicle, as well as tie the entire system to the VAB structure. Each platform will ride on four Hillman roller systems on each side — much like how a kitchen drawer glides in and out. The process to lift and install each of the platforms takes about four hours. Each platform weighs more than 300,000 pounds, and measures about 38 feet long and close to 62 feet wide.
"I am very proud of the amount of work that the team accomplished. I am also humbled to have been able to lead this group of amazing people who have been able to complete this very complex and challenging project," said Jose Perez Morales, GSDO VAB Element senior project manager. "I am very pleased with all the work performed by the NASA and contractor team."
Engineers began installation of the first halves, the K-level platforms, about a year ago, followed by the J, H and G platforms. In July 2016, platform installation reached the halfway point, with the fifth of ten levels of platforms, the F-level, completed.
The remaining platforms installed are E, D, C, B and A. Each of the platform levels is strategically located to allow technicians and engineer’s access to different systems on the rocket, Orion spacecraft and the Launch Abort System during processing and stacking operations on the mobile launcher.
"This is a huge day for us," said Darrell Foster, GSDO Project Management Division chief. "We cherish these milestones. We're all working toward launch day success."
GSDO, with support from the center's Engineering Directorate, is overseeing upgrades to the VAB, including the installation of the work platforms.
NASA awarded a contract to modify High Bay 3 to the Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Greeley, Colorado, in March 2014. Hensel Phelps, along with its subcontractors, Institutional Services Contract, Engineering Services Contract, and Test and Operation Support Contractor, supported crane operations, lifting, installation and initial inspection of each of the platforms.