NASA gave a sneak peek into the Artemis Project’s Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket system which will be used to take astronauts to the Moon.
At their Marshall Flight Center in Alabama, NASA purposefully pushed the tank beyond it’s limit to test how much more it could take before it explodes.
“We purposely took this tank to its extreme limits and broke it because pushing systems to the point of failure gives us additional data to help us build rockets intelligently,” Neil Otte, chief engineer of the SLS Stages Office at Marshall, said in a NASA statement. “We will be flying the Space Launch System for decades to come, and breaking the propellant tank today will help us safely and efficiently evolve the SLS rocket as our desired missions evolve.”
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the SLS is “the most powerful rocket ever built.”
It can store just over 2 million litres of supercooled liquid hydrogen, which will propel the spacecraft on its eight-minute climb at a speed of 27,400 kilometres per hour.
According to Space.com, the tank withstood more than 260% of expected flight loads for over five hours.
Success! Engineers @NASA_Marshall tested the @NASA_SLS liquid hydrogen test article tank to failure – the tank withstood more than 260% of expected flight loads before buckling and rupturing! #Artemis MORE: https://t.co/xznmov26FP pic.twitter.com/qAIyapEJA5
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) December 9, 2019
“This final tank test marks the largest-ever controlled test-to-failure of a NASA rocket stage pressurized tank,” Mike Nichols, Marshall’s lead test engineer for the tank, said in the statement. “This data will benefit all aerospace companies designing rocket tanks.”