Every year, the US Government Accountability Office releases a report that assesses NASA's major projects. Typically, this GAO report summarizes each project and provides some basic information about schedule, cost, and concerns regarding the space agency's work.
However, the new "Assessments of Major NASA Projects" report released on Wednesday contains what seems to be an entirely new bit of information about the Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing for deep space exploration. The report asserts that engineers at NASA and the SLS rocket's core-stage contractor, Boeing, are concerned about fuel leaks.
Earlier this year, NASA moved the big rocket's core stage to a test site at Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi. Before the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted work, NASA and Boeing teams were working toward a critical summer exercise. During this "green run" test, the clamped-down rocket will ignite its engines and burn for about eight minutes to simulate an ascent into orbit.
"Program officials indicated that one of the top remaining technical risks to the green run test is that the core stage may develop leaks when it is filled with fuel," the report states on page 82. "According to these officials, they have conducted extensive scaled testing of the gaskets and seals used in the core stage; however, it is difficult to precisely predict how this large volume of liquid hydrogen will affect the stage."
Launch slipping more?
The lead author of the new report, Cristina Chaplain, director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions for the GAO, did not immediately respond to a request for more information about this issue. NASA has not publicly discussed these concerns.
Boeing, the prime contractor, began work on the SLS core stage nearly a decade ago, and NASA has invested about $10 billion into the program to develop this stage alone. The SLS core stage is very large, but at its essence, the vehicle represents fairly standard aerospace fare, with big liquid-hydrogen and liquid-oxygen fuRead More – Source