NASA has announced that on June 24, engineers completed the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s structural testing process for the Artemis lunar mission. The testing process was specifically for the liquid oxygen structural test article to find its point of failure. SLS program manager John Honeycutt said that the completion of that test was a significant milestone for both the SLS and Artemis programs.
The team had to build the test stands, support equipment, and test articles to conduct the tests and analyze the data. Honeycutt says that was “remarkable work” that will help send American astronauts to the moon. The final test was of the liquid oxygen tank article that measured 70 feet tall and 28 feet in diameter.
The massive tank was bolted into a 185,000-pound steel ring at the base of the Marshall Test Stand 4697. Hydraulic cylinders were calibrated and attached, allowing engineers to measure and record the effects of the launch and flight forces. The team found the liquid oxygen tank failed at a weld around its circumference just as engineers had predicted. The tank failed at the approximate load levels expected, and the test proved flight readiness and provided critical data for the tank designers.
That the final test of the liquid oxygen structural test article met all program milestones. The team working with the project says that the successful completion of SLS structural qualification testing at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama wraps up the most extensive test campaign at the center since tests were conducted for the Space Shuttle program three decades ago.
The test campaign included five structural test articles that underwent 199 separate test cases, and more than 421 GB of data were collected to add to computer models used to design the rocket. Structural qualification testing has been going on at Marshall since May 2017.