Its not every day that you get an up close look at a solid rocket booster firing up. Usually they’re attached to the body of a much larger rocket and shrouded in a thick cloud of smoke. That is about to change thanks to Northrop Grumman’s GEM-63XL rocket qualification test.
The solid rocket booster will eventually help propel United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle, which will be tasked with delivering a lunar lander to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis mission.
The 90-second test took place earlier this month in Utah and was the first in a series of two static fire tests to qualify the booster for flight. The goal behind the test was to see how the motor would function in cooler temperatures, around 4,4°C to be exact.
“During the static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to qualify the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a cold-conditioned environment. This test demonstrated materials and technologies similar to the GEM 63 rocket motor that qualified for flight in October 2019.” explained Northrop Grumman in a press release.
Take a look at the test fire below;
The test fire didn’t happen without incident though, as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had something to say about ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket. Earlier this month the U.S. Space Force awarded a contract to ULA to launch 60 percent of its upcoming flights, whilst SpaceX was awarded the other 40 percent of flights. As you would imagine, Musk expressed his displeasure with the decision and shared some choice words via his favorite social media site, Twitter.
Efficiently reusable rockets are all that matter for making life multiplanetary & “space power”. Because their rockets are not reusable, it will become obvious over time that ULA is a complete waste of taxpayer money.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 13, 2020
Image credit; Screenshot