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SLS Booster Broke Apart; Is NASA's Most Powerful Rocket Ready?

Sep 19, 2016 04:10 AM EDT
SLS
During a booster test, NASA captured the slow motion engine burning showing parts of its nozzle plug breaking into pieces. Pictured above is an artist's rendition of NASA's Space Launch System rocket in its latest configuration following its Critical Design Review.
(Photo : NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

NASA is building the "most powerful" rocket ever made. The Space Launch System (SLS) will be the most powerful rocket because it will enable astronauts to pursue deep space exploration within the Solar System. But it is no easy task. In the recent booster test, the SLS booster's nozzle plug broke apart and was captured by NASA in a slow motion video.

However, the test result should not be construed as a failure, since according to the agency, the nozzle intentionally broke into pieces. The test was conducted last June 28 using a version of the booster for the space launch system. SLS was fired at 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit that lasted for two minutes.

The most powerful rocket can perform 9.2 million pounds of thrust at full capacity. This data is almost 30 times more that a normal 747 jet. The booster, which NASA has spent a lot of time developing and testing, will be responsible for about 75 percent of the rocket's power, according to a report.

NASA captured a slow motion video of the booster test that took place in Orbital ATK's test facility located in Promontory, Utah. In the video, the nozzle plug can be seen breaking apart intentionally as the agency implied.

"The smoky ring coming off the booster is condensed water vapor created by a pressure difference between the motor gas and normal air," a NASA official said in a statement.

The nozzle is another layer of protection for the SLS designed to be an "environmental barrier" preventing natural factors such as heat, dust and moisture to penetrate the rocket before its ignition. Experts from Orbital ATK and NASA said the nozzle isn't always a part of the test, but it has been included due to some recent changes applied in the rocket. Previous NASA foam plugs are denser the ones in the SLS.

To conduct a safer testing with the expectation of nozzle plug materials breaking up, numbered grids were strategically placed outside the plug before the testing so the pieces could be retrieved and be used for assessments and potential reconstruction.

The intentional breakage is crucial to the rocket test since the retrieved pieces will help engineers in identifying the speed and size of the parts before they completely break apart. Based on the testing, broken pieces were located as far as 1,500 to 2,000 feet from the spacecraft.

This test will be the last full-scale "qualification test" for SLS booster before the first unmanned mission flight of the most powerful rocket into space, together with the Orion spacecraft in 2018.

Read More:
NASA Tests the World Biggest Rocket
NASA Released Slow Motion Video of Rocket Test

 

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