EM-1 Test and Verification

Locations Map

Hover on a colored node to display the testing that has been done to the part of the Deep Space Exploration Systems.

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SLS (Orange)

Orion (Silver)

GDSO (Blue)

NASA Centers

Test Stand A1

Test Stand B2

Stennis, MS

Test Stand B2

RS-25 Testing

Stennis
Bay St. Louis, MS

The RS-25 engine that will drive NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, to deep space blazed through its first successful test Jan. 9 at the agency's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The RS-25 fired up for 500 seconds on the A-1 test stand, providing NASA engineers with critical data on the engine controller unit and inlet pressure conditions.

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Unitary Wind Tunnel

Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel

Langley Research Center
Hampton, VA

During the liftoff transition testing of a nearly six-foot model of the Space Launch System, engineers used a technique for studying airflow streamlines called smoke flow visualization, giving them insight into the data retrieved. NASA engineers and contractors tested four different payload configurations during the liftoff transition testing of a 67.5-inch model of the SLS at NASA Langley Research Center’s 14-by-22-foot subsonic wind tunnel in Hampton, Va.

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Launch Equipment Testing

Launch Equipment Test Facility

Kennedy Space Center

The Launch Equipment Test Facility, or LETF, provides NASA with a proving ground to safely assess machinery and designs intended to support the launches of the biggest rockets ever built. A rocket leaving the launch pad subjects the launch structures to intense vibrations, staggering forces and prolonged blasts and flames from the exhaust. Even a small failure on the pad can cause the rocket to fail. To reduce the chances of a failure, engineers build prototypes of their designs and try them out at the LETF on machinery that duplicates sections of a launch pad and simulates the pressures that will come during a launch. The connecting arms used for launches also are tested at the LETF before they are connected to the mobile launcher for use on a rocket. Located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the LETF is a unique set of structures, equipment and tools built during the 1970s to test full-scale umbilical’s and release mechanisms for the space shuttle. The facility includes workshops for rapid prototyping and precise manufacturing, along with huge launch support structures located outdoors.

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Wind Tunnel Testing

Wind Tunnel Testing

Ames Research Center
Silicon Valley, CA

Dr. Patrick Shea inspects a nearly 4 3/4-foot (1.3 percent scale) model of the second generation of NASA's Space Launch System in a wind tunnel for ascent testing at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. The tests will help determine the larger, more powerful rocket's behavior as it climbs and accelerates through the sound barrier after launch. To also test a new optical measurement method, Ames engineers coated the SLS model with Unsteady Pressure-Sensitive Paint, which under the lighting glows dimmer or brighter according to the air pressure acting on different areas of the rocket. Shea, who is from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, was SLS aerodynamic test lead for the work at Ames. Credits: NASA/Ames/Dominic Hart

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Wind Tunnel Testing

Test Stand 4693

Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, AL

In this 60-second time-lapse video, watch structural Test Stand 4693 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center rise 221 feet, from the start of construction in May 2014 to its end in December 2016. Test Stand 4693 will subject the 537,000-gallon liquid hydrogen tank of the Space Launch System's massive core stage to the same stresses and pressures it must endure at launch and in flight.

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Pad Rollout

Pad Rollout

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth's orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC

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Transonic Dynamic Tunnel

Transonic Dynamic Tunnel

Langley Research Center
Hampton, VA

Tucked away in Hampton, Virginia, is a 56-year-old NASA wind tunnel capable of generating winds speeds of up to 900 miles per hour. In its lifetime, the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel has hosted hundreds of NASA projects, recently welcoming its latest guest, a 10-foot model of the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). SLS will send an Orion spacecraft to an asteroid and other deep space destinations on the Journey to Mars, and may also open new possibilities for robotic science missions to places like Saturn and Jupiter. Rocket scientists at NASA’s Langley Research Center analyze data in the control room during wind tunnel testing. Final touches are made on a 10-foot model of the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, just before testing it in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman

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Wind Tunnel Testing

Sub-scale Acoustic Model

Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, AL

A 5-percent scale model of the Space Launch System (SLS) is ignited Aug. 28 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The model is being used for acoustic testing, which will help NASA engineers understand how loud the SLS vehicle will be during liftoff. Data from the test series will be used to design the water sound suppression system that reduces liftoff vibrations on the vehicle. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep-space missions, including to an asteroid and ultimately to Mars.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/David Olive

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Wind Tunnel Testing

Thrust Vector Control Lab

Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, AL

The SIL and the Thrust Vector Control Test Lab provide integrated test environments for the Space Launch System’s flight software and avionics hardware. The avionics system is distributed across the entire SLS launch vehicle, including Core Stage, Boosters, and Core Stage Engines. The avionics system, along with the flight software, maintains control over the integrated launch vehicle throughout the entire SLS mission profile.

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Wind Tunnel Testing

Foam Insulation Testing

Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, AL

Amy Buck, SLS core stage insight lead at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, holds up a sample of foam that recently went through testing in Marshall's Hot Gas Facility. The facility is used for development and qualification of material systems for use on launch vehicles, like NASA's Space Launch System. These foam panels were tested to determine recession characteristics of the foam during the ascent phase of flight. The surface of the foam reaches more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit as it undergoes a hot gas flow at speeds of up to Mach 4 to simulate the environment during launch. NASA engineers then take the samples and measure how much foam is lost during the test to characterize the materials for use in the launch vehicle design and analysis.
Credits: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

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Wind Tunnel Testing

LOX Tank Test Article Welding

Michoud Assembly Facility
New Orleans, LA

A liquid oxygen tank confidence article for NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, completes final welding on the Vertical Assembly Center at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. This is the first glimpse of what one of the two tanks will look like that make up the SLS core stage. Towering more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, the core stage will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines. Confidence hardware verifies weld procedures are working as planned and tooling-to-hardware interfaces are correct. It will also be used in developing the application process for the thermal protection system, which is the insulation foam that gives the tank its orange color. The liquid oxygen tank is the smaller of the two tanks in the core stage. Components of the liquid hydrogen tank confidence article completed welding in February at Michoud. All welding for the SLS core stage for the Block I configuration of the rocket -- including confidence, qualification and flight hardware -- will be done this summer in preparation for its first flight with NASA's Orion spacecraft in 2018.
Image Credit: NASA/Michoud/Steven Seipel

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Wind Tunnel Testing

Booster Test

ATK Propulsion Systems Test Facilities
Promontory, UT

The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory, Utah. During the Space Launch System flight the boosters will provide more than 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth, the first step on NASA’s Journey to Mars. The booster was tested at a cold motor conditioning target of 40 degrees Fahrenheit –the colder end of its accepted propellant temperature range. When ignited, temperatures inside the booster reached nearly 6,000 degrees. The two-minute, full-duration ground qualification test provided NASA with critical data on 82 qualification objectives that will support certification of the booster for flight. Engineers now will evaluate these data, captured by more than 530 instrumentation channels on the booster.
Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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Parachute test

Orion Parachute Tests Yuma, AZ

Yuma, AZ

Orion’s parachute system is a critical part of returning future crews who will travel to deep space on the journey to Mars and return to Earth in the spacecraft. The first parachutes deploy when the crew module is traveling more than 300 mph, and in a matter of minutes, the remaining parachute system slows the vehicle and enables it to splash down in the ocean at about 20 mph. The system is composed of 11 total parachutes that deploy in a precise sequence. Three parachutes pull off Orion’s forward bay cover, which protects the top of the crew module -- where the packed parachutes reside -- from the heat of reentry through Earth’s atmosphere. Two drogues then deploy to slow the capsule and steady it. Three pilot parachutes then pull out the three orange and white mains, on which Orion rides for the final 8,000 feet of its descent. Orion’s main parachutes are packed to the density of oak wood to fit in the top part of the spacecraft, but once fully inflated cover almost an entire football field.

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Parachute test

Orion Forward Bay Cover Test Jettison

Yuma, Az

The jettison of Orion’s forward bay cover, which will protect the upper part of Orion throughout its mission, until just before splashdown, was tested in the air for the second time during the June 25 parachute test. The cover, which is visible to the right of the Orion capsule in this photo, must be removed to allow Orion’s parachutes to unfurl.

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Underway Recovery

Orion Underway Recovery Test

San Diego, CA

U.S. Navy divers and other personnel in a rigid hull Zodiac boat have attached tether lines to a test version of the Orion crew module during Underway Recovery Test 5 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California on Oct. 27, 2016. NASA's Ground Systems Development and Operations Program and the U.S. Navy are conducting a series of tests using the USS San Diego, various watercraft and equipment to practice for recovery of Orion on its return from deep space missions. The testing will allow the team to demonstrate and evaluate recovery processes, procedures, hardware and personnel in open waters.

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Underway Recovery

Orion Egress Training

Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX

Engineers participate in testing to evaluate procedures to recover crews from Orion after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on future missions. Image Credit: NASA

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Underway Recovery

Orion Astronaut Simulation

Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX

In a lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers simulated conditions that astronauts in space suits would experience when the Orion spacecraft is vibrating during launch atop the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket on its way to deep space destinations. A series of tests occurring this month at Johnson will help human factors engineers assess how well the crew can interact with the displays and controls they will use to monitor Orion’s systems and operate the spacecraft when necessary. Test subjects wore modified advanced crew escape suits that are being developed for astronauts in Orion, and sat in the latest design of the seat atop the crew impact attenuation system. This was the first time this key hardware was brought together to evaluate how launch vibrations may impact the astronaut’s ability to view the displays and controls. While Orion’s late 2018 mission will be uncrewed, engineers are hard at work performing all the necessary evaluations to make sure the spacecraft is ready for crewed missions beginning as early as 2021.
Image Credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak

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Umbilical Testing

Orion Umblilical Test

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

Testing of the Orion Service Module Umbilical (OSMU) is complete at the Launch Equipment Test Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A series of tests, called regressions tests, were performed on the umbilical’s design modifications to validate it for installation on the mobile launcher. The tests were conducted by Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate for the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program.

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Test Dummies

Orion Crash Test Dummies

Langley Research Center
Hampton, VA

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, are working to ensure astronauts are uninjured during splashdown by performing water-impact tests of an Orion test capsule with suited crash test dummies inside.

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Drop Test

Orion Water Drop Test

Langley Research Center
Hampton, VA

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, kicked off a series of nine drop tests of a representative Orion crew capsule with crash test dummies inside to understand what the spacecraft and astronauts may experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean after deep-space missions. The high-fidelity capsule, coupled with the heat shield from Orion's first flight in space, was hoisted approximately 16 feet above the water and vertically dropped into Langley’s 20-foot-deep Hydro Impact Basin. The crash test dummies were instrumented to provide data and secured inside the capsule to help provide information engineers need to ensure astronauts will be protected from injury during splashdown. Each test in the series simulates different scenarios for Orion’s parachute-assisted landings, wind conditions, velocities and wave heights the spacecraft may experience when touching down in the ocean. Use this link to watch video of the drop test.

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Pad Abart Test

Orion Pad Abort Test

White Sands, NM

Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) launched May 6 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. PA-1 is the first fully integrated flight test of the launch abort system being developed for the Orion crew exploration vehicle.

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jettison Test

Orion LAS Jettison Motor Test Fire

Sacramento, CA

Applause resounded from NASA and its partners as they watched Orion’s jettison motor generate 40,000 pounds of thrust in just a blink of an eye, preparing the spacecraft for its first integrated mission with the Space Launch System rocket. Onlookers had just witnessed a 1.5-second jettison motor test firing at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility in Sacramento, California. The Orion launch abort system (LAS) is designed to protect astronauts in the unlikely event there is an issue during launch by pulling the spacecraft away from the rocket during a mission. The jettison motor is activated during ascent to separate the launch abort system from the spacecraft after it is no longer needed during a mission. “This test showed us that the jettison motor can quickly generate the amount of thrust needed to pull the LAS away during an Orion mission,” said Tim Larson, jettison motor principle engineer for Lockheed Martin who has been with the project since inception. “I’m very pleased with how the test went.”

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Solar Panel Array

Orion Solar Array Deployment Test

NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station
Sandusky, OH

An international team of engineers deployed an Orion solar array wing at NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio on Feb. 29. The deployment of the 24-foot wing qualification model was an important first step in verifying Orion’s power system for the spacecraft’s first flight atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket. The mission, known as Exploration Mission-1 or EM-1, will venture tens of thousands of miles beyond the moon. Credits: NASA

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Launch Pad 39B

Launch Pad 39B Flame Trench Upgrades

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft will roar into deep space from Launch Pad 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Before the most powerful rocket in the world takes flight, the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program continues making significant upgrades and modifications to the historic pad to accommodate the new rocket’s shape and size. Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) will be the first of many missions of SLS and Orion as the agency prepares for its journey to Mars. The north side of the flame trench is about 571 feet long, 58 feet wide and 42 feet high. The new flame deflector will divert the rocket’s exhaust, pressure and heat to the north. To determine where the most pressure and heat will occur during launch, a team of engineers from Kennedy and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, used computational fluid dynamics to locate the areas of significant temperature and pressure. In these areas of concern, adhesive anchors are being drilled into the walls at intervals to hold the metal plates that will reinforce the brick system before the mortar and bricks are added. Construction workers now are preparing the north side of the flame trench to withstand temperatures of up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit at launch of the rocket’s engines and solid rocket boosters. Approximately 100,000 heat-resistant bricks, in three different sizes, will be secured to the walls using bonding mortar in combination with the adhesive anchors.

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Mission Control Center

Mission Control Center

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX

NASA's Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center (MCC-H), also known by its radio callsign, Houston, is the facility at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas that manages flight control for America's human space program, currently involving astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The center is named after Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., a retired NASA engineer and manager who was instrumental in establishing the agency's Mission Control operation, and was the first Flight Director.

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VAB Platform Installation

VAB Platform Installation

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

In this view looking up from the floor of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, four levels of new work platforms are now installed on the north and south sides of High Bay 3. The G-level work platforms were most recently installed, at about the 14th floor level. Below them are the H, J and K level platforms. The G-level work platforms are the fourth of 10 levels of work platforms that will surround and provide access to the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to VAB High Bay 3, including installation of the new work platforms, to prepare for NASA’s journey to Mars.
Photo Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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Aft Skirt painting

Booster Fabrication Facility

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

With a legacy that stretches back to the earliest days of the Shuttle Program, NASA's Booster Fabrication facility is continuing its efforts to enable crewed exploration of the solar system with its work on Exploration Mission 1.

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Launch Pad 39B

Mobile Launch Platform

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

The mobile launcher (ML) that will support NASA's Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission-1 is in view at the Mobile Launcher Park Site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Credits: NASA/Cory Huston

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Launch Pad 39B

Crawler Transporter 2

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

NASA's crawler-transporters, two of the largest vehicles ever built, have carried NASA rockets and spacecraft to the launch pad for the last 50 years. They will continue their legacy as the "workhorses" of the nation's space program as part of the agency's journey to Mars. The crawlers are being modified to carry NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) with the Orion spacecraft atop it and potential commercial vehicles to their pads to begin space exploration missions. Originally constructed in 1965 to support the agency's Apollo Program, they also supported the Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and Space Shuttle Program, helping NASA push the boundaries of human space exploration farther into the solar system. Time-lapse video shows crawler-transporter No. 2 traveling from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The move was performed by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program to check out recently completed modifications and ensure its ability to carry launch vehicles such as the space agency's Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket to the pad.
Credits: NASA/Amber Watson

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Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center Upgrades

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, FL

By focusing on piloted missions to the International Space Station using Commercial Crew Program spacecraft, followed by Space Launch System and Orion flight tests, Kennedy has established a ground support network of launch pads and associated infrastructure needed to support missions to Mars by astronauts in the future. All of this while maintaining the center’s unique ability to launch historic robotic exploration missions such as Osiris-Rex that will bring back a sample from an asteroid. Other flights in the future will continue to decipher the mysteries of Mars as well as taking close looks at other planetary networks in the solar system. The center has seen complete upgrades in many areas including the Launch Control Center, Launch Complex 39B and modifications to the Mobile Launcher tailored to the needs of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. Other facilities have been upgraded for commercial partners. The center’s new headquarters campus is under construction to deliver an environmentally friendly, energy efficient structure.

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Arc Test

Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel

Ames Reaserch Center

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