NASA released a video today detailing current testing operations for the Space Launch System (SLS) taking place at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Engineers constructed a 1/20 scale model of the SLS in order to perform real-world tests on an intriguing sound suppression system.
Seconds before launch, five water nozzles known as rainbirds will spray nearly half a million gallons of water over the launch pad. The water protects the SLS from dangerous vibrations caused by the deafening noise of the rocket motors. In the video, you can see the water splashing off the launch pad shortly before ignition.
The core stage of the SLS is currently being tested, with four liquid oxygen-hydrogen thrusters simulating the rocket's RS-25 engines. Later this year, testing will begin on the fully assembled model, with Utah-based Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) preparing two smaller rocket motors to stand in for their own five-segment solid-fuel boosters, currently being built for the full-size SLS.
To gather data about launch conditions, microphones are placed on and around the model, recording every second of the ignition sequence. The model also requires a restraint system to keep it on the ground while testing the incredibly powerful engines.
The finished SLS is scheduled to undergo flight testing in 2017, and a later version is due to be the most powerful rocket ever constructed, with a lift capacity of 143 tons. The SLS is designed to enable missions to Mars and nearby asteroids, enabling astronauts to once again boldly go where no man has gone before.