NASA engineers installed a test version of a crucial piece of hardware for the Space Launch Systemrocket in a 65-foot-tall test stand Nov. 17 at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for human missions to deep space with the Orion spacecraft, including the Journey to Mars.
The hardware is a test version of the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), which is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give Orion the in-space push needed to fly beyond the moon before it returns to Earth on the first flight of SLS and Orion in late 2018. The ICPS will be stacked with three other test articles and two simulators that make up the upper portion of the SLS rocket ahead of a rigorous test series in early 2017.
“The installation of the ICPS is another big step in getting ready for the test series, which will ensure that the hardware can endure the incredible stresses of launch,” said Steve Creech, deputy manager of the Spacecraft and Payload Integration & Evolution Office at Marshall, which manages the SLS Program for the agency. “In addition to testing, work is underway on flight pieces of the upper part of the rocket, including the ICPS. NASA and our prime contractor teams are working diligently toward mission success for first flight, and this test series also will provide crucial data to support future missions, including the journey to Mars.”