Engineers pushed the tank to the limits to figure out where they are. Picture: David Olive/NASA
Engineers pushed the tank to the limits to figure out where they are. Picture: David Olive/NASA

‘Crippling force’ bursts NASA rocket

The NASA rocket that's supposed to return astronauts to the Moon within the next five years has been destroyed with "crippling force".

NASA deliberately pushed the rocket to its limits and destroyed it in the process to see just how much abuse it can take.

The testing of the Space Launch System (SLS) took place at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama and aimed to find the "point of failure", according to NASA.

The tank burst open like a
The tank burst open like a "soda can". Picture: NASA

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"The Space Launch System and Marshall test team have done a tremendous job of accomplishing this test program, marking a major milestone not only for the SLS Program but also for the Artemis program," SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt said.

"From building the test stands, support equipment and test articles to conducting the tests and analysing the data, it is remarkable work that will help send astronauts to the Moon."

The final test involved the 21m tall, 8.5m wide liquid oxygen (LOx) tank being bolted to a 83,000kg steel ring, with 34 hydraulic cylinders being fitted up and down it to apply more than 4 million kilograms of force.

Engineers pushed the tank to the limits to figure out where they are. Picture: NASA / David Olive
Engineers pushed the tank to the limits to figure out where they are. Picture: NASA / David Olive

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The test was designed to simulate the kind of "extremes forces it will experience during launch and flight".

A successful test took place last month, and NASA has now shared footage showing the rocket torn apart by the force.

Close to 200 tests were conducted, producing more than 420 gigabytes of data, which will now be used to optimise the SLS hardware, with the hope of getting to the Moon, and eventually Mars.

Water seen gushing out of the test apparatus. Picture: NASA
Water seen gushing out of the test apparatus. Picture: NASA

In the final, destructive test the tank tore apart at the weld location.

The failure happened where NASA and Boeing engineers predicted it would at a similar level of force.

The final test means the SLS has met the milestones for the program after more than three years of testing.

The testing campaign is the largest undertaken at the Marshall centre since the tests conducted for the Space Shuttle program more than three decades ago.

The Space Shuttle program concluded in 2011.

 

Originally published as 'Crippling force' bursts NASA rocket


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