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Boeing powered up the Core Stage for the first Space Launch System on the B-2 Test Stand at the NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi last week following a long stand down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The first Core Stage is at the outdoor facility for a Green Run test campaign that culminates in first-time propellant loading followed by an inaugural test-firing.
Test Case 2 started early last week in the B-2 Test Stand during bad weather, which slowed down the initial power up of the test stand and vehicle computer systems.
“We bring up the Stage Controller, make sure it’s working properly, charge our batteries, and then go into a slow power up of the vehicle.
Boeing’s Stage Controller is a computer system that conducts the final seven of the eight Green Run tests of the Core Stage.
It interfaces with the stage flight computers and software directly and provides interfaces to the test control team for the systems of the stage and the test stand.
After the Stage Controller was booted up, the Core Stage flight computers were activated, and the stage batteries tested.
“One of the first things we did was make sure that we had good comm to both the stand and the Stage Controller, and the first series of tests that we did were focused on the batteries,” John Cipoletti, Launch Team Lead and Green Run Deputy for Boeing, explained.
(Photo Caption: A color-coded schematic diagram of the different avionics boxes distributed throughout the SLS Block 1 vehicle. The flight software runs on the three flight computers in the forward skirt of the Core Stage. During vehicle power-up last week the flight computers were brought up first, followed by verifying that the four battery units in the intertank could be charged and that power for the stage could be transferred from ground supply to the vehicle batteries.).
The stage is being commanded by the Stage Controller, either manually from console operators in the test control center (TCC) or through automated sequences
The Green Run campaign at Stennis is the final, major pre-launch development test of the newest piece of NASA’s new launch vehicle
A generic “green run” is an acceptance test firing of new rocket engine hardware, and the test campaign at Stennis will be capped by a test-firing of the stage; however, the Stage Green Run also refers to the whole development test campaign for the Core Stage at Stennis
The hot-fire test is the first time in the program that a Core Stage will ever been fired with all its subsystems working in unison
Following the initial Modal Test, final production work on the stage was performed in parallel with finishing the first two phases of Stage Controller development
The MPS connections were completed, the Stage Controller passed its readiness reviews, and the test team got within a week of starting power up tests in mid-March
Before leaving the vehicle and the test stand in March due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the team had to back out of some of the preparations for Test Case 2, so there was more than five days worth of work to do when they returned
The schedule for launch readiness of Artemis 1 currently depends on the timing and results of the hot-fire test
After the test is completed satisfactorily, the Core Stage can be refurbished and transported by barge to its launch site at KSC where NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program is waiting to assemble the Orion spacecraft with the whole SLS vehicle
Test case 2 checked out the computers, and subsequent test cases will check out mechanical and propulsion systems to get ready for the critical tests with propellant onboard, the wet dress rehearsal (test case 7) and the hot-fire (test case 8)
“Prior to that, we did a test readiness review for that one test case, and so that one is behind us.”
(Photo Caption: Syncom Space Services (S3) employees Cheley Carpenter and Shelton Dunn work on Level 19 of the B Test Stand at Stennis in mid-May when the initial wave of personnel was allowed to return to work. Work progress was halted and the stage was backed out of preparations for Test Case 2 in mid-March when COVID-19 forced most people to stay at home for several weeks.)
And what was decided was we’d do something called a series test readiness review, so it’s a big test readiness review that would cover from test case 2 all the way through test case 6.”
“Once we got that, prior to every test case, two, three, four, five, and six, we do a mini test readiness review, which is basically just saying ‘OK, how did the last test go
Test case 3 will validate safing routines that the Stage Controller would execute if a problem is identified that requires backing out of an operation in progress
The Stage Controller would send commands to the Core Stage and test stand systems to put them back in a safe configuration
“We’re testing out the vehicle hydraulics, TVC, and also the Core Stage engines, the RS-25s,” Cipoletti said about test case 5
Test case 6 is a dry-run of the countdown for the WDR and hot-fire tests, and a software update is expected for both the vehicle and the Stage Controller before that test
An update of NASA’s Green Run Application Software (GRAS) that runs on the flight computers for the test campaign at Stennis and Boeing’s Phase 2 software update for the Stage Controller will be loaded for the simulated countdown, WDR, and hot-fire tests
Integrated verification and validation testing of both software packages is being done at the Software Integration Test Facility (SITF) at MSFC; the hardware-in-the-loop lab has a working set of avionics for both Core Stage and Stage Controller tied together with emulators for the rest of the vehicle
While the new software is being loaded, work will also start to configure the vehicle and the stand for WDR and hot-fire
(Photo Caption: Core Stage-1 is lifted into the B Test Stand during installation operations at Stennis on the morning of January 22. It is expected to be at Stennis for the Green Run test campaign for most or all of the year. Following a successful hot-fire test and some refurbishment it will be removed from the stand, placed back on NASA’s Pegasus barge, and transported to its KSC launch site. The space agency hopes the Core Stage can be transported to KSC some time around the beginning of 2021.)
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