At one stage, cameras beneath the test stand revealed flames at the bottom of one engine where cork insulation caught fire. But officials said temperature sensors on the motor below the layers of cork did not quantify excessive heat, and the problem would not occur during an actual launch when the upper air would be too thin for the flame to burn.
We were in great shape, said John Shannon, vice president and program director for the Space Launch System in Boeing, which built the core phase. “The cork did its job. ”
NASA tried to finish this evaluation in January. However, when a piece of equipment did not function quite as anticipated, the rocket’s computer shut down the engines after just about one minute. Seeking more information on the functioning of the stage and the motors, engineers fixed the issues and tried again.
Engineers will now review the results.
From our initial look at all the data we achieved all of the objectives, even our secondary objectives, Mr. Shannon said. “We’ll be working through that over the next few weeks as we do very detailed inspections of the hardware. Nevertheless, the initial look is that everything worked perfectly. ”
Following some refurbishment, the center stage will be packaged up and shipped by barge to Kennedy Space Center, possibly before the end of April, according to Julie Bassler, a director for the rocket. There, it and other portions of the rocket including two strap-on rocket boosters, another stage and the Orion crew capsule is going to be put together.
That launch will be the Artemis 1 mission. (In Greek mythology, Artemis is the sister of Apollo, and NASA officials have said one of the upcoming astronauts to step on the moon is going to be a woman.)
For that flight, there will be no astronauts aboard. The launch will carry the Orion module, as well as a variety of small CubeSats, on a path to the moon. The capsule will orbit the moon many times, much as in NASA’s Apollo 8 mission, before returning to Earth and splashing down in a water landing.