June 21, 2024

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Modified space shuttle main engine ready for final test • Record

Modified space shuttle main engine ready for final test • Record

A test run of the engines powering NASA’s moon rocket was conducted Scheduled to launch this weeka key milestone where Space Shuttle launches—starting with Artemis V—must be replaced.

NASA’s Artemis uses remaining parts of the Space Shuttle program. Notably, it managed to convert the Space Shuttle’s main engines from reusable marvels into disposable units to be thrown into the ocean during launch, along with the rest of the core stage.

However, only a limited number of engines are available, and NASA has contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne to reproduce the RS-25 engine.

The new engines are different from the original Space Shuttle engines. Reuse is no longer required, but additional energy is needed. Engines must also be cheaper to produce, so a new design is needed. This design must also be approved, and then tested.

The first Artemis mission will launch in 2022. The next three flights will also use modified engines from the Space Shuttle program, which have been modified to reach 109 percent of their rated level. The new RS-25 engines will have a performance rating of 111 percent and will be tested to 113 percent for a margin of operational safety.

The October 5 test will bring the E0525 development engine to 111 percent and run it for 550 seconds. The longest test will be 650 seconds, and the crew will also do a gimbal test to make sure the motor can spin properly. In general, the launch of 6350s for the test series is planned, and if all goes well, the green light will be given for the production of 24 new RS-25 engines using the new design.

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The tests conducted at the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center are considered crucial if the Artemis program is to advance beyond the fourth flight in its current form. However, the RS-25 is not the only Space Shuttle component that will become rare if NASA continues to launch SLS.

The solid rocket boosters (SRBs) used for launch are derived from Space Shuttle parts and are expended where the Space Shuttle program can recover and reuse them. NASA has enough parts to get to Artemis 8 but will need to produce new parts for Artemis 9.

Likewise, the European Service Module (ESM) currently uses the Space Shuttle Orbiter Maneuvering System engine as its primary means of propulsion. And from ESM-7, it will take something new.

However, the RS-25 engine is the most compelling. Assuming, of course, that the SLS is still flying in its current form by the time Artemis V finally orbits. ®