Raumfahrt - SLS Raumschiff ORION Update-25


NASA shows off SLS hardware made in Alabama, bound for deep space

NASA's new Space Launch System has some big missions planned. It will carry astronauts back to the moon, and it could carry big science instruments like the Europa Clipper to Jupiter in half the current travel time.

But the focus in Huntsville this week wasn't on the big things SLS could do. It was on 13 cubesats slightly bigger than a shoebox and the adapter built in Alabama to launch them from the first SLS flight around the moon.

"It's hardware built at Marshall Space Flight Center and designed by an engineer who grew up here," said Andy Schorr, assistant manager of the SLS Spacecraft Payload Integration and Evolution Office. "It shows we can be adaptable, we can be agile. We're extremely proud of it."

Shore was talking at a media preview of a stage adapter and launch platform 5 feet tall and 18 feet wide. It was built at Marshall of curved aluminum alloy plates using friction stir welding, a process that basically melts and blends the edges of the plates into a single piece.

The adapter will sit on top of first SLS test rocket just below the Orion capsule and hold the cubesats until time to launch them into deep space at a series of what NASA calls "bus stops" favorable to each experiment.

Lead adapter engineer Brent Gaddes explained the adapter's construction to reporters who donned protective booties to climb a platform in the clean room overlooking the ring. He also pointed to another ring adapter sitting a few feet away that the center is building for the second SLS flight, the one with astronauts aboard.

Building those adapters in Huntsville highlights a return to large rocket part construction that started at Marshall with the Saturn program and the International Space Station. As for the cubesats, they represent a push to get the most for the money it will cost to launch SLS the first time.

"It's the first time cubesats will be launched in deep space," SLS secondary payload manager Kimberly Robinson said of the first flight. NASA announced the opportunity, vetted the replies and selected the best ideas from its own ranks, international partners and universities.

One Japanese experiment, OMOTENASHI, will attempt to put a small lunar lander on the moon's surface. The idea is to test low-cost missions to investigate the moon.

Marshall has its own cubesat called NEA Scout. Powered by a solar sail, it will fly by an asteroid gathering data and testing the sail propulsion method. Les Johnson of Marshall is leading NEA Scout with partners at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The adapter will now head to Kennedy Space Center in Florida in about a month aboard NASA's Super Guppy airplane. There, it will wait with other parts of SLS for assembly and launch now scheduled for December of 2019.

Orion Stage Adapter


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