Watch stunning static fire footage of NASA's SLS booster for the Artemis moon missions
We could be mere weeks away from seeing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) finally take flight for the space agency's Artemis I mission.
NASA recently scheduled the first provisional launch date for August 29.
With that date fast approaching, Northrop Grumman has released video footage of a full-scale static fire test of the Flight Support Booster-2 that will help power SLS and the Orion spacecraft to orbit.
Northrop Grumman is working on an enhanced SLS booster
According to Northrop Grumman, the July 21 test took place at the company's test area in Promontory, Utah. Northrop fired the booster for two minutes, generating up to 3.6 million lb of thrust. The test allowed Northrop's engineers to test a new motor ignition system, materials, and an electronic thrust vector control system for the first time. These systems will be used in future Artemis missions. You can watch the footage in the video below.
"Continuous product improvements and obsolescence mitigation helps NASA achieve its long-term mission to utilize SLS for its Artemis program," explained Wendy Williams, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. "This opportunity for early learning on next-generation systems will help us develop an enhanced booster that is ready to support the greater payload demands of the SLS rocket through 2031."
NASA already has provisional plans in place for Artemis IV through VIII. Before that, the Artemis I mission will send the agency's Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Artemis II will perform the same maneuver with astronauts aboard. Artemis III, meanwhile, will be the first mission to take astronauts back to the moon's surface since 1972. That mission will launch to the moon aboard a Starship launch vehicle rather than NASA's SLS.
Flight Support Booster-2 is the world's largest solid rocket booster
The Flight Support Booster-2 is smaller than the liquid-fueled booster core of SLS. However, both solid-rocket side boosters combined provide more than 75 percent of the thrust required to launch SLS for the Artemis I mission.
The Flight Support Booster-2 is 154 feet (47 m) tall, making it the largest solid rocket booster in the world. They are made of leftover booster segments initially built for the Space Shuttle program, though they will have 25 percent more total impulse. There are currently enough segments for eight Artemis missions.
Once the eight segments are used — they are designed to be expendable — Northrop Grumman will build new Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension (BOLE) boosters using segments left over from the canceled OmegA launch vehicle. These will provide improved performance over the current models. If all goes to plan for NASA next month, we may finally be about to see the Flight Support Booster-2 help lift SLS into orbit. Based on Northrop Grumman's footage, it will be a sight to behold.
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