BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLBT) - The world will be watching the John C. Stennis Space in Mississippi, Saturday, for the final test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in the Artemis mission.
Affectionately known as the twin sister of Apollo, Artemis will land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024 with the same SLS being tested by Mississippians in Bay Saint Louis.
“It’s our 8 minutes of glory,” said Rodney McKellup, Deputy Chief of Center Operations at Stennis Space Center. “There’s a buzz around here, we’re excited!”
It’s a major milestone, NASA’s biggest feat since testing for the Apollo mission in the 1960s, McKellup said.
NASA has spent billions of dollars and Mississippi’s Stennis Space Center has worked for the last 8 years just to get to this final test, which will be witnessed around the world and even felt within a 60-mile radius.
“A low rumble in the distance and you might even feel it a little bit in your house,” McKellup said. “It’s gonna get everybody’s attention for sure.”
Here’s exactly what’s happening:
It’s called the Green Run Hot Fire test. Why? NASA says the comprehensive test series, or “run,” brings the new, or “green,” core stage flight hardware to life for the first time. NASA has completed seven of the eight Green Run tests. During this final test, engineers will power up all the core stage systems, load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic, or supercold, propellant into the tanks, and fire all four engines at the same time. It won’t take off, but instead, stay grounded for the 8-minute test. The test ensures NASA’s SLS rocket is ready for lift-off.
Here’s what’s inside the core stage or backbone of the SLS rocket:
NASA says the core stage includes the liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank, four RS-25 engines, and the computers, electronics, and avionics that serve as the “brains” of the rocket. Towering more than 200 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, the core stage stores 730,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will fuel the four engines. SLS has the power to send more mass and volume to deep space than any rocket ever built, according to Stennis, making it possible to send astronauts to distant destinations including Mars.
Barry Robinson, project manager for SLS core stage Green Run testing at Stennis, said this is definitely a group effort.
“The upcoming Green Run hot fire test is the culmination of a lot of hard work by this team as we approach a key milestone event for NASA’s Artemis missions.”
Computer programmers have set up all the processes, engineers have conducted countless tests and at least 1,000 people are responsible for every aspect of the test including technicians, electricians, and computer scientists, NASA says.
In all, there are three missions: Artemis I in 2021 will be an uncrewed flight, Artemis II in 2022 will be a crewed flight, and NASA will land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 on the Artemis III mission.
NASA will use what they learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap - sending astronauts to Mars - and Mississippi is the place where it all begins.
Interestingly, McKellep says this is why the Stennis Space Center was built in the 1960s, for rocket engine testing and he’s honored to play a role in getting astronauts into space.
“It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity to be able to do something on this scale,” he said. “It’s unprecedented. From the swamps of Mississippi to orbiting the moon, this is the same rocket that will be launched into space.”
Core stages are built at NASA’s New Orleans facility then placed on a barge to get to Mississippi. After Saturday’s test, the SLS will be placed on another barge headed to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the Artemis I mission, slated before the end of 2021.
Watch the Green Run Hot Fire test here, Saturday, Jan. 16 at 4 p.m. (CST)