Marshall engineers, facilities, tools support Artemis | Technology Today

When the Space Launch System lifts off from Earth with more power than any rocket NASA has ever built and soars toward the Moon for the Artemis I mission, it will be propelled by the knowledge, skill, and support of the people and programs at every NASA center across the country.

While Artemis is an agencywide effort, many of the people, programs, and facilities that built, tested, and readied the mega rocket and other key Artemis components for this next era of spaceflight are at Marshall Space Flight Center. Marshall has not only contributed to Artemis I, but teams are already building rockets and working on other technology and hardware needed for future missions that will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, part of establishing a long-term lunar presence.

The two-hour launch window was scheduled to open 7:33 a.m. Aug. 29 from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39B. But the launch was postponed.

“Artemis I will carry a lot of the expertise, effort, and pride of our Marshall team members,” Marshall Director Jody Singer said. “From manufacturing and testing the bones and brains of the Space Launch System rocket, to supporting it through this flight and beyond, we are so proud to contribute to this historic achievement in our nation’s space program. Go Artemis!”

Marshall is home to the Space Launch System Program Office, which leads the planning, design, development, testing, evaluation, production, and operation of the integrated launch vehicle. Marshall team members also developed and tested the flight software in-house and built key parts of the rocket in manufacturing facilities at Marshall and at Michoud Assembly Facility.

Marshall has a legacy of propelling NASA’s exploration through engineering, which is essential for a return to the Moon. Here are some of the many distinct facilities, tools, and hardware at Marshall that contributed to the Artemis I mission:

Marshall engineers have designed, developed, tested, and delivered SLS software that will tell the Artemis I rocket how to operate during its launch and ascent to orbit. The Systems Integration Lab/Systems Integration Test Facility allows engineers to fully simulate the integration of software and hardware systems prior to hardware manufacturing and test flight. Engineers also create and run end-to-end simulation environments that support the entire project life cycle. These unique capabilities ensure that software and hardware integrate seamlessly before vehicle manufacturing and assembly.

The launch vehicle stage adapter was built at Marshall’s Advanced Manufacturing Facility. The facility supports the center’s unique, cutting-edge tools and systems additive manufacturing, including laser welding and 3D printing. The cone-shaped adapter was manufactured on a 30-foot welding tool – it is the largest piece of the rocket built at the facility. The adapter provides structural support for launch, and also protects avionics and electrical devices from extreme vibration and acoustic conditions during launch and ascent.

The Orion stage adapter, also constructed at the Advanced Manufacturing Facility, will join Orion to the rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage – a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based in-space stage that will give the spacecraft the push needed to go to deep space. The Orion stage adapter contains a diaphragm that provides a barrier to prevent gases generated during launch, such as hydrogen, from entering Orion. The adapter will also carry small secondary payloads, called CubeSats, to deep space to perform their own science missions.

The Orion launch abort system, which will carry the crew to safety in the event of an anomaly during a future Artemis launch, is managed at Marshall.

The SLS Engineering Support Center, located in the Huntsville Operations & Support Center, allows engineers specializing in the engines, boosters, core stage, avionics, and upper stage to monitor the rocket’s propulsion and other systems during the countdown and flight.

Leading up to and during launch, teams in the SESC analyze and monitor temperatures, pressures, flow rates, stresses and other types of telemetry from the rocket. They also produce flash reports for the Mission Management Team and report on and archive launch vehicle data for additional study in the weeks and months after launch. During Artemis launches, the center will support the Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center, and the Flight Operations Directorate team at the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center.

Editor’s note: Janet Sudnik is a public affairs officer in Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.