NASA conducting final test on Space Launch System rocket core stage this weekend

After a year of a long testing campaign, NASA and Boeing at Stennis Space Center are ready to conduct the final test for the Space Launch System core stage before it is handed over to the launch team at Kennedy Space Center.

NASA just completed a month-long process of conducting two wet dress rehearsals to prepare the teams, procedures, and core stage for the Hot Fire Test. They announced earlier this week that the Hot Fire Test will be as early as this Saturday afternoon following several tests that will take place to make sure everything is ready.

Currently, NASA’s Ground Systems teams over in Kennedy Space Center have begun stacking the Solid Rocket Boosters for Artemis 1 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. Since they have started stacking, the seals between the SRB segments now are the limiting factor for when Artemis 1 has to launch. The SLS core stage teams now have one year to get their part of the rocket delivered to KSC and ready for flight. NASA stated in a press call that they are expecting to have this core stage to be sent to KSC in February.

Artemis 1 is the first launch of the SLS rocket, but if you ask the core stage, it would be its second. The Hot Fire Test is intended to simulate a full launch by firing the four RS-25 engines for 489 seconds. While it fires, the core will perform and behave like it is in flight while it is being held down in the B=2 test stand, the same test stand that tested the first stage of the Saturn V moon rocket.

Four RS-25, each of which who have already flown on Space Shuttle missions, vent out liquid oxygen during fueling tests. Courtesy: NASA

Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center will begin checkouts and tests for the core stage Wednesday before a final Go/No-Go poll is conducted Saturday morning. While there are several potential holds that are possible to have throughout the countdown, the estimated T-0 time is set to be at 5 p.m. EST/4 p.m. CST.

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