Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of L3Harris Technologies, is making significant progress in the installation of four RS-25 liquid-propellant rocket engines in NASA’s second Space Launch System (SLS) core stage. The engines are being installed in Core Stage-2 at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, marking an important milestone in the Artemis program.
The installation process, which began on September 11, was delayed for several months due to setbacks in core stage readiness. However, after careful preparations during the month of August, Engine 2059 became the first engine to be installed in the core stage. This marked a major step towards the Artemis II crewed flight test.
While the installation procedures are similar to previous ones, the engine install team has made improvements based on a review of their previous work. However, the clearance between the engines and the core stage is quite small, making access for inspections a challenging task. Nonetheless, the team is determined to ensure that the engines are properly installed and ready for the mission.
Of the four engines being installed, two are veterans of several Space Shuttle missions, while the other two are new part sets that were originally spares at the end of the Shuttle program. This mix of experienced and new engines adds further complexity to the installation process. Following their installation, intensive leak checks will be conducted to ensure the integrity of the interfaces between the core stage and the engines.
Once the engines have successfully undergone the necessary checks, post-installation work will commence. This includes electrical, pneumatic, and hydraulic checks, as well as closeout inspections. These thorough inspections are crucial to ensure that all elements are in optimal condition before the engines are transported to Kennedy Space Center for launch.
It is worth noting that Core Stage-2 will be the final stage to undergo final assembly at Michoud. Moving forward, production will take place at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. Additionally, plans are underway to transform the engine service area in the Vehicle Assembly Building into a pre-shipment processing area for future engine installations.
As Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to assist in the installation of these crucial rocket engines, excitement builds for the upcoming Artemis missions. NASA’s Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon by 2024 and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade. The successful installation of the RS-25 engines brings NASA one step closer to achieving these ambitious goals and propelling humanity further into space exploration.
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