Mobile Launcher test drive inches SLS a step closer to Exploration Mission-1

Engineers test the movement of the access arm of the Orion crew on the Mobile Launcher before they roll the structure to Pad 39B for fit checks. Photo Credit: NASA

A Chinese The saying goes roughly: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." Although this adage is true for those who undertake earthly enterprises, it is also appropriate for the launch of NASASpace Launch System (SLS).

The Mobile Launcher arrives on Pad 39B for fit checks. Photo credit: NASA

The Mobile Launcher arrives on Pad 39B for fit checks. Photo Credit: NASA

Before the super heavy-lift rocket can fly up during its inaugural mission to the moon at Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), it must first make the 7.2 miles (7.24 km) journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Start Pad 39B.

In preparation for the flight, engineers and technicians at the agency Exploration Ground Systems took the Mobile Launcher (ML) of 11 million pounds (4.99 million kilograms) on his first trip to the path to begin checking the nearly 380 feet (115.8 meters) high structure. The operation, carried out over a period of two days, marks an important milestone for the program.

"The mobile launcher will be moved to the next major program phase for verification and validation of all systems when connected to the pad and VAB systems," says Cliff Lanham, project manager of the mobile launcher, in a release issued by NASA.

The ML stays on LC-39B for several days because engineers test and integrate utility connections with important ground hardware, such as noise suppression and environmental management systems.

Once the controls are complete, the ML returns to the VAB to begin a year of testing and controls within the world's tallest one-storey building.

Although this is the first time the hardware has made the trip to Pad 39B in the SLS configuration, it marks the second trip for the ML to the launch site. Prior to the cancellation of the Constellation program, the ML, sitting on top of the multi-track Crawler Transporter (CT), made the voyage to Pad 39B to undergo similar fit controls for the Ares I missile.

The Constellation program, together with the Ares I take-off vehicle, was canceled by the Obama administration in 2009. Parts of Constellation were rescued (the Orion spacecraft) with others, namely the Ares V super heavy lifttrack, were redefined and renamed ( a modified version of the rocket's design became the SLS).

The testing of the ML will be both on-site on Pad 39B, as well as from the Young-Crippen shooting room at Kennedy & # 39; s Launch Control Center (LCC).

Although there were some early reports that the ML had a considerable lean, or deflectionThat may have influenced the coordination of important umbilical cord connections and access arms, it seems that concerns perhaps exaggerated.

With these problems brought to a standstill, engineers and technicians should start working on the ML in High Bay 3 in the VAB.

EM-1 is currently scheduled to take place as soon as 2020. If everything remains as planned, EM-2 will return NASA astronauts to deep space missions as early as 2023.

"These tests are necessary to ensure that the systems function as designed and to validate that the systems function as expected under the test conditions," Lanham concluded.

Tagged: Exploration Mission 1 Kennedy Space Center Lead Stories NASA Orion Space Launch System

Curt Godwin

Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember and keeps an eye on his eyes from an early age. Curt initially studied in Nuclear Engineering and later decided that computers would be a more interesting – and safer – career area. He has worked in educational technology for more than 20 years and has been published in industry and peer-reviewed journals and is a respected authority in the field of wireless network engineering. During this period of his life he retained his love for all that is space and he wrote about his experiences at various NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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