NASA Downplays Launch Pad Damage Caused by SLS Rocket
A burnt platform, fried cameras, broken tubes and a malfunctioning elevator are among the casualties from last week’s NASA SLS rocket launch. Mobile Launcher 1 and Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center will require repairs, but NASA says they will be ready for the next Artemis mission.
Space Launch System, or SLS, Launched During the early hours of Wednesday, November 16, the Orion capsule was sent on a 25.5-day journey to the Moon and back. It was a picture-perfect launch, and NASA said a lot. Preliminary data from the Artemis 1 flight indicated that the SLS was performing as well as exceeding expectations, Artemis 1 mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters yesterday.
The SLS’s performance deviations were less than 0.3% across the board, and the rocket missed the NASA orbital target by just 3 nautical miles, Sarafin said. He reminded reporters that the SLS exerted 8.8 million pounds of thrust on takeoff, and the fact that the SLS yawed at 7 feet every second was still “remarkable” in terms of accuracy. “The results were amazing,” he added.
It was told to photojournalists at the Kennedy Space Center Do not take photos of Launch Complex 39B For security reasons (eg, ITAR restrictions; NASA says photos of now-disclosed secret panels would be a security breach), and possibly because NASA doesn’t want to promote the fact that its launch tower was damaged.
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During a press conference on Friday, Sarafin admitted that the mobile launch tower sustained some damage as a result of the launch, causing temperatures in excess of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. “We expected to find damage in the pillow, and we find the damage in the pillow,” Sarafin said.
At a press conference yesterday, the mission management team provided more details and some visuals showing the extent of the damage. In addition to fresh burn marks on the turret and missing paint on its surface, a number of pad cams were burned, and some nitrogen and helium supply lines sustained minor damage. The blasted doors in the tower’s elevators were torn apart by the missile’s shock wave, Sarafin said, so “at the moment, the elevators are inoperable and we need to put those elevators back into service.” All that said, the damage “we’ve seen is really concerning, just a few areas,” he said, adding that SLS is largely a “very clean system.”
At the same time, Sarafin explained, the deluge system “did a great job” and the tailmast service navel was “clean inside”. He added that repairs are needed, but he’s confident everything will be ready for the manned Artemis 2 mission in 2024. That may seem like plenty of time, but stacks for the sequel mission will likely begin next year.
The mission management team seemed largely unfazed, and it’s entirely possible that the damage was indeed minimal or at least manageable. It may also be true that NASA does its best to downplay any harm done by its new Pride and Joy. Opinions posted on Twitter varied, with some saying damage was caused Much worse than NASA is willing to admitwhile others say the damage is not a big deal and it is Every part of the engineering process. Indeed, surprises should be expected when the world’s most powerful rocket launches, but if the damage is worse than NASA leads us to believe, they have to admit it.
Back at the lunar farm, the unmanned Orion capsule continues to go about its business. Starship He made a close flyby of the moon yesterday Because it is steadily making its way into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. Orion will conclude its 25.5-day mission in December 11, when trying to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and water falling into the Pacific Ocean. Artemis 1 is the first of what NASA hopes will be a series of missions to establish a permanent human presence in the lunar environment.
more: What’s next for the Orion spacecraft as it sails towards the moon
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