The US space agency NASA intentionally broke the tank of Space Launch System. The SLS is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by the agency for deep space exploration. According to engineers, they broke the test version of the rocket’s liquid hydrogen tank to check its extreme limit. NASA said the SLS tank suffered damages during a procedure that was specifically designed to test its breaking point. The rocket is being tested at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. When completed, the SLS will be the largest rocket ever built. NASA is aiming for the first SLS launch by 2020. However, reports are doing the rounds that the first launch is unlikely before 2021.
The test was conducted using gaseous nitrogen for pressurization and hydraulics for loads. The tank was fitted with sensors to measure pressure, stress, and temperature. Also, cameras and other equipment were installed to record every moment of the test. The liquid hydrogen tank withstood more than 260 percent of expected flight loads. The cylindrical tank wall started to buckle after more than five hours. Neil Otte, the chief engineer of SLS Stages Office, confirmed that engineers deliberately broke the tank. Neil said testing the extreme limits will deliver the aerospace companies with additional data and benefit while designing rocket tanks. The chief engineer added scientists will fly the Space Launch System for decades to come.
The Space Launch System has been under development since 2011. The rocket will serve as a launch vehicle for the agency’s deep space exploration missions in the future. If reports are to go by, the SLS will be the premier launch vehicle for the agency’s Artemis program. Under this program, NASA and other space agencies will send the first woman and the next man to Moon by 2024 and possible humans to Mars. The SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon. The SLS will replace Ares V launch vehicle.