Rocket testing lifts off at NASA Marshall

The liquid hydrogen tank for Space Launch System is lifted in place in preparation for testing.

January 23, 2019 in Space

NASA and Boeing teams lifted critical Space Launch System (SLS) test hardware into place at Marshall Space Flight Center. 

“I wish all of America could be here to see this. It’s history in the making, and we’re honored to be part of it,” said Paul Wright, Boeing Test & Evaluation Senior Manager for SLS.

A test version of the largest section of core stage hardware, the Boeing-built liquid hydrogen tank (LH2), will undergo months of structural testing to validate design and manufacture of this SLS core stage element.

The 150,000 pound liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of hydraulic cylinders in the 225-foot-tall test stand will push and pull the tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight.

The flight version of the LH2 tank is undergoing final fitting at New Orleans’ Michoud Assembly Facility. The fitting prepares the article for stacking with the engine section, called aft join. The top half of the core stage, called forward join, will then be mated with the aft join in final assembly. Engines are then attached and the core stage will be shipped to NASA’s Stennis Space Flight Center for smoke and fire testing in the refurbished B2 test stand, where Apollo’s Saturn V stages were tested.