Top NASA Images from 2017: Building America’s Deep Space Exploration Systems

By  //  January 1, 2018

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KSC IS CENTER OF Deep Space Exploration

Below are the top images from 2017 that tell the story of building and testing the systems that will send astronauts to deep space destinations including the Moon, Mars and beyond.

NASA – Below are the top images from 2017 that tell the story of building and testing the systems that will send astronauts to deep space destinations including the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Construction Completed for Stand to Test SLS’s Largest Fuel Tank

Major construction is complete on NASA’s structural test stand that will ensure SLS’s liquid hydrogen tank can withstand the extreme forces of launch and ascent.

Together, the SLS liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks will feed 733,000 gallons (nearly 3 million liters) of super-cooled propellant to four RS-25 engines, producing a total of 2 million pounds of thrust at the base of the core stage.

View of rocket engine test stand from below
ABOVE: The 215-foot-tall structural test stand for NASA’s Space Launch System is seen Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA Simulates Orion Spacecraft Launch Conditions for Crew

In a lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers simulated conditions that astronauts in space suits would experience when the Orion spacecraft is vibrating during launch atop the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket on its way to deep space destinations.

Test subject in crew escape suit seated inside test module
ABOVE: In a lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers simulated conditions that astronauts in space suits would experience when the Orion spacecraft is vibrating during launch atop the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket on its way to deep space destinations.
Credits: NASA/Rad Sinyak

Final Work Platform Installed in Vehicle Assembly Building for NASA’s Space Launch System

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers completed the installation of 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platforms halves altogether, that will surround NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and allow access during processing for missions, including the first uncrewed flight test of Orion atop the SLS rocket.

The final platform, A north, is installed in High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
ABOVE: High up in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an overhead crane lowers the final work platform, A north, into place for installation in High Bay 3 on Jan. 12, 2017.
Credits: NASA/Frank Michaux

Rainbow View of NASA’s RS-25 Engine Test

NASA conducted eight RS-25 engine tests in 2017 for the Space Launch System rocket. Flight preparations are complete for the four liquid fuel engines that will help power SLS on its first mission, and engineers began testing engines for the second mission that will carry crew. Four RS-25 engines will help power the SLS at launch, providing a combined 2 million pounds of thrust and firing in conjunction with a pair of solid rocket boosters. The 10 motor segments have been cast for the two solid rocket boosters, and they are on track to be ready for the first integrated test flight. With the boosters, total thrust at liftoff will exceed 8 million pounds.

photo from first RS-25 test of 2017 at Stennis Space Center
ABOVE: NASA engineers conducted their first RS-25 test of 2017 on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on Feb. 22, 2017.
Credits: NASA/KSC Unmanned Aerial Systems Team

Early Morning View of Iconic Vehicle Assembly Building

Prior to rolling out to the launch pad, the rocket and Orion spacecraft will come together in the VAB for processing and assembly. Across from the VAB, work is underway to upgrade the dock area of the turn basin wharf to accommodate the core stage of the SLS rocket when it arrives by barge from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to be integrated with other hardware in preparation for its first launch.

Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA Kennedy photographed in morning with clouds overhead
ABOVE: An early morning view of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Credits: NASA/Bill White

Cranes, Rigging Used to Lift Bracket for Orion Service Module Umbilical

NASA equipped the tower on the mobile launcher with several connections, called launch umbilicals, that will connect to the SLS core stage and twin solid rocket boosters, the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the Orion spacecraft. They will provide power, communications, coolant and fuel.

Long exposure of launcher against cloudy sky
ABOVE: A long-exposure view of the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Credits: NASA/Cory Huston

VAB at End of Rainbow During Crawler-transporter Test Drive

NASA’s crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2) took a test drive along the crawlerway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to determine the structural dynamics and loading environments of the crawler’s recent upgrades. The test was performed to ensure that the crawler is ready to support the first integrated flight of the Orion spacecraft and the SLS rocket.

Crawler transporter closeup showing treads
ABOVE: Crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2) moves slowly along the crawlerway on its way back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (in view in the background) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Credits: NASA/Leif Heimbold

SLS Engine Section Test Article Loaded on Barge Pegasus

A structural qualification test article for the SLS engine section was shipped from agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama aboard the Pegasus barge. At Marshall, the article underwent structural loads testing in which electronically controlled hydraulic cylinders pushed, pulled, twisted and bent the test article with millions of pounds of force to ensure the hardware can withstand the extreme forces of launch and ascent. The engine section is located at the bottom of the rocket’s core stage and will house the four RS-25 engines and be an attachment point for the two solid rocket boosters.

A engine section structural qualification test article for NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System
ABOVE: A engine section structural qualification test article for NASA’s nbew rocket, the Space Launch System, is loaded onto the barge Pegasus at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Credits: NASA/MSFC Michoud image: Jude Guidry

Vacuum Pressure Integrated Suit Test

At NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, technicians conducted a Vacuum Pressure Integrated Suit Test to verify enhancements to the spacesuit that astronauts will wear in the Orion spacecraft. During this test, the suit is connected to life support systems and then air is removed from Johnson’s 11-foot thermal vacuum chamber to evaluate the performance of the suits in conditions similar to a spacecraft.

Technicians in pressure suits viewed through round window
ABOVE: Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are testing the spacesuit astronauts will wear in the agency’s Orion spacecraft on trips to deep space.
Credits: NASA/Rad Sinyak

Orion’s Ogive Creates Safe Escape for Astronauts

In Sandusky, Ohio, engineers replicated, at full scale, the acoustics and vibrations Orion will experience during its missions in space using a wall of highly specialized speakers in the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station. The ogive panels protect the crew module during ascent as well as from the harsh acoustic and vibration environments experienced during launch.

Orion ogive panels
ABOVE: Engineers are currently testing a critical component of NASA’s Orion spacecraft at the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio.
Credits: NASA

Orion’s Parachutes Measure Up in High Pressure Test

In 2017 NASA successfully conducted three tests in the dessert of Yuma, Arizona as part of a series of tests to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts to help the agency safely return crew to Earth. Each test simulated a possible scenario astronauts might experience under various conditions. At a facility in Promontory, Utah, engineers tested the abort motor for Orion’s launch abort system.

Orion spacecraft with parachutes deployed descends to Earth
ABOVE: Orion’s three main orange and white parachutes help a representative model of the spacecraft descend through sky above Arizona, where NASA engineers tested the parachute system on Sept. 13 at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma.
Credits: NASA/Rad Sinyak

Technicians Complete Final Welds Inside Liquid Oxygen Tank for First SLS Flight

All five major parts — the engine section, liquid hydrogen tank, intertank, liquid oxygen tank and forward skirt –are built and ready for additional outfitting and testing. They will be connected together to form the 212-foot-tall core stage, the backbone of the SLS rocket. To build the two largest core stage structures — the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks that hold more than 700,000 gallons of propellant — NASA welded the thickest structures ever joined using self-reacting friction stir welding.

The liquid oxygen tank--shown here as technicians inside the tank complete final welds to plug holes left by the robotic welder.
ABOVE: The liquid oxygen tank–shown here as technicians inside the tank complete final welds to plug holes left by the robotic welder– is undergoing the first hydrostatic testing for NASA’s deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).
Credits: NASA/MSFC/MAF/Jude Guidry

SLS Core Stage Pathfinder Arrives At NASA Michoud

The Space Launch System (SLS) core stage pathfinder, which is similar in similar in size, shape and weight to the 212-foot-tall core stage, was transported to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. To reduce the risk of first-time operations with one-of-a-kind spaceflight hardware for SLS, the agency is using the pathfinder to test new shipping and handling equipment and procedures from the manufacturing site to the test site to the launch site.

Pathfinder arrives at MAF
ABOVE: The Space Launch System (SLS) core stage pathfinder, which is similar in similar in size, shape and weight to the 212-foot-tall core stage, arrived at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility early in the morning on September 27, 2017.
Credits: NASA/MSFC/MAF/Steven Seipel

Space Launch System Booster Separation Test in Wind Tunnel

Engineers conducted several wind tunnel tests using SLS models at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Technicians used a distinct pink pressure-sensitive paint for some of the testing to understand the aerodynamic forces the rocket may experience on the launch pad and during flight.

Space Launch System Booster Separation Tested In Wind Tunnel
ABOVE: To understand the aerodynamic forces as booster separation motors fire and push the solid rocket boosters away from the rocket’s core, engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center are testing a 35-inch SLS model in Block 1B 105-metric ton evolved configuration in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel using a distinct pink paint.
Credits: Dave Bowman / NASA

Thumbs up for Evaluating of How Crew Will Exit Orion Spacecraft

During crew egress testing in the Gulf of Mexico, teams evaluated how the crew will get out of the capsule with assistance and by themselves. if the capsule lands upside down or turns over In high waves, uprighting bags are responsible for turning Orion right side up when it. At NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston teams also performed a series of tests to evaluate how astronauts and ground crew involved in final preparations before Orion missions will quickly get out of the spacecraft if an emergency were to occur on the pad prior to launch

Orion capsule floats in sea with crew in orange flight suits in raft nearby
ABOVE: Using the waters off the coast of Galveston, Texas, a NASA and Department of Defense team tested Orion exit procedures in a variety of scenarios July 10-14.
Credits: NASA

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