NASA’s space launch system just stepped up to take off



After repeated delays, the Space Launch System, the workhorse of the ambitious Artemis program, is now entering the final phase of testing before being deployed for its first flight. NASA recently shared images of the Umbilical release and retraction test (URRT) for that massive rocket that was fired inside High Bay 3 at the Kennedy Space Center.

Umbilicals are responsible for providing various components of a rocket launch, such as power, fuel, coolant, and communications to the rocket on its launch pad. During the countdown to ignition of the rocket motor, the umbilicals are released in a predetermined fashion and retracted from their positions. The URRT tests the synchronization of the system.

Previous NASA rocket launches have used pyrotechnic separation systems. However, NASA used different detachment mechanisms on the SLS such as wire rope winches and lanyards, and even several mechanisms for an umbilical, NASA Space Flight Reports.

There are many umbilicals on the SLS, starting with the The aft apron electrical umbilicals (ASEU) at the bottom with the two aft service mast umbilicals (TSMU), which are responsible for supplying the central stage of the rocket with liquid hydrogen and oxygen. The Basic step Inter-Tank Umbilical (CSITU) is connected between the hydrogen and oxygen tanks at a height of 140 feet (42.7 m).

The Main Stage Front Skirted Umbilical (CSFSU) sits at a height of 180 feet (54.9 m) between the first and second stages of the SLS, while the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage Umbilical (ICPSU) ) is located at a height of 240 feet (73.2 m) and will be responsible for powering the upper stage of the SLS as well as providing electrical connections and air support.

The tallest umbilical is the Orion Service Module (OSMU) umbilical which provides coolant and purge air for the environmental control system and will also be present when crewed missions are taken over by the SLS. Apart from ASEU, all other umbilicals were tested during the URRT, NASA Spaceflight reported.

After the successful test, the team will now move on to Integrated Modal Testing (IMT) to determine the structural integrity and resonant frequency of the stacked rocket, after which a wet dress rehearsal is scheduled at Launch Complex 39B. While NASA has publicly stated that the Artemis I will launch in 2021, it could likely be conducted in early 2022, the website said.


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