Space agency officials said a key part of NASA’s giant lunar missile was in good condition even after Saturday’s test shot was suddenly cut off after just over a minute, space agency officials said Tuesday.
Officials say it is too early to say whether the test – simulating the firing of four engines for eight minutes during orbit – needs to be repeated. If engineers determine that they have learned enough and can skip the second test, NASA will proceed to ship the augmented phase of what is known as the Space Launch System to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. .
John Shannon, Boeing’s missile program manager, said: “It is too early to say which direction we are going in,” John Shannon, Boeing’s missile program manager, said during a meeting. newspaper on Tuesday. Boeing built the booster, often seen as a core step.
A test launch is currently scheduled for November and Kathy Lueders, administrator in charge of human discovery and operations at NASA, does not rule out the launch of the missile, known as the Air Launch System. time, still in place by 2021 The program has been behind schedule for many years and has cost billions of dollars to achieve this. Each missile can cost $ 2 billion to launch and can only be used once.
Early engine shutdown is caused by low hydraulic pressure in a part called the booster. Since the booster phase in the test is the one that will be launched into space, engineers have been especially careful to ensure that it will not fail during the test. If the same happens during a flight, the engine will not shut off.
“We will continue flying after experiencing the same conditions we saw in the test,” said John Honeycutt, the missile program director at NASA.
Another problem that occurred during testing – described as a “major component fault” on one of the motors – turned out to be a problem with a sensor playing no role during test shutdown . Subsequent tests showed that all four engines performed well.
However, NASA and Boeing engineers face two more than perfect options. They can repeat the test – perhaps a shorter test – to gather remaining data. But there’s always a risk of something going wrong with the test. Or the engineers can decide they have enough information and move it to Florida.
“This is our core flight,” said Ms. Lueders. “So you have to understand what is the risk of exposing the main phase of the flight into another test round.”
For Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, Tuesday is his last full working day. He will resign on Wednesday when President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was inaugurated.
Unlike the turmoil in the final days of the Trump administration, Bridenstine emphasized the importance of continuity and said NASA has the support of both Republicans and Democrats. .
“It should never be partisan,” Mr. Bridenstine said. “It must always be united. It will bring people together for science and discovery and discovery. “
Mr. Trump doesn’t always agree, sometimes making imprecise maneuvers on the Obama administration’s space policy while his administration aims to bring astronauts back to the moon by year. 2024. But that seemed out of line even before Trump lost the election. because Congress did not provide as much funding as is required for the development of landers to send astronauts to the lunar surface.
Bridenstine said NASA is investigating whether the Trump administration’s plan needs to be revised.
“I have no doubt that the great people at NASA will offer a variety of options for us to return to the moon that the next administration can fully buy and support,” he said.
Mr. Biden has yet to name who he will nominate as the next NASA administrator, but Mr. Bridenstine pledged his support.
“Now I understand that I must see it as a taxpayer, not as the head of the agency,” he said. “But I will follow up with great interest and will definitely cheer for you along the way.”