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NASA Builds Giant Test Part for SLS Propulsion System

Nov 22, 2016 05:31 AM EST

In preparation for the Space Launch System's (SLS) big test series, NASA installed a giant test version of the rocket's propulsion stage.

The test hardware for the SLS's interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) was placed in a 65-foot-tall test stand on Nov. 17 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The ICPS, which measures about 29 feet tall and 16.8 feet in diameter, is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give the Orion capsule the in-space push needed to fly beyond the moon before it returns to Earth in late 2018. It will be stacked with three other test articles and two simulators that make up the upper portion of the SLS rocket ahead for a rigorous test series in 2017, NASA said.

"The installation of the ICPS is another big step in getting ready for the test series, which will ensure that the hardware can endure the incredible stresses of launch," Steve Creech, deputy manager for the Spacecraft and Payload Integration & Evolution Office at Marshall, which manages the SLS Program, said in a statement.

"In addition to testing, work is underway on flight pieces of the upper part of the rocket, including the ICPS. NASA and our prime contractor teams are working diligently toward mission success for first flight, and this test series also will provide crucial data to support future missions, including the journey to Mars," Creech added.

On the preparations, a crane lifted the massive test article above the stand and carefully lowered it into place, Alabama News reports. In the flight version, the stage adapter will connect the ICPS to the SLS core stage.

In the meantime, the hardware will be pushed, pulled and twisted during the tests to determine if it can withstand launch pressures.

The SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for human deep space missions with the new Orion spacecraft. It will also be used for NASA's Journey to Mars.

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