NASA successfully tests five-segment solid rocket motor

Sep 09, 2011 By Dan Kanigan
NASA and ATK's five-segment solid rocket motor fires during Development Motor-3 test in Promontory, Utah, on Sept. 8. Credit: ATK

NASA and ATK Space Systems successfully completed a two-minute, full-scale test of Development Motor-3 (DM-3), Thursday, Sept. 8. DM-3 is NASA's largest and most powerful solid rocket motor ever designed for flight.

The stationary firing of the development solid was conducted at the ATK test facility in Promontory, Utah. ATK Space Systems is the prime contractor. DM-3 is the third in a series of development motors and the most heavily instrumented motor in NASA history with a total of 37 test objectives measured through more than 970 instruments.

Prior to the static test, the solid rocket motor was heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit to verify and assess at during the full-duration test. This series of testing will certify the motor to fly at temperature ranges between 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Initial test data showed the motor performance met all expectations.

"Ground testing at temperature extremes is crucial to furthering our understanding of solid rocket propulsion," said Alex Priskos, first stage manager for Ares Projects at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "These tests will help us build better, more capable solid rocket motors and will allow America to maintain its leadership in this important technical capability."

The solid rocket motor is designed to generate up to 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or lifting power, at launch. Information collected from this test, together with data from earlier development motor tests, will be evaluated to better understand solid rocket propulsion performance, reliability and design.

Although similar to the solid that helped power the to orbit, the five-segment development motor includes several upgrades and technology improvements implemented by NASA and ATK engineers. Motor upgrades from a shuttle booster include the addition of a fifth segment, a larger nozzle throat, and upgraded insulation and liner. The motor cases are flight proven hardware used on shuttle launches for more than three decades.

The solid rocket motor is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

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baudrunner
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
What does NASA intend to use it for? The solid rocket boosters on the space shuttle generated a thrust of 2.8 million lbf each. Are we seeing an even much heavier lifter in the future? Inquiring minds want to know.
Shootist
2.8 / 5 (14) Sep 09, 2011
One 5 segment rocket for Ares I. Pure crap. NASA = Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

We've been to the moon. We can build SSTO if we wanted to. But NASA will continue buying disintegrating totem poles, for as long as we allow it.

GSwift7
3.4 / 5 (7) Sep 09, 2011
Couple of comments. First a funny observation. Why did they bother with that US flag on the side? There's cost management in action alright.

To shootist:

The solid-fuel SRBs are advantageous for the purpose of boosting launches compared to liquid-fueled rockets, because they provide greater thrust and do not have the refrigeration and insulation requirements of liquid-fueled rockets


Once you assemble an SRB, the fuel is already inside it. You can inspect and test it way ahead of time. Then it can sit in storage or on the pad as long as you want, ready for use. Liquid fuel rockets have to be fueled as close to launch time as possible, and then you have to run all your system checks at the last minute.

Also, a larger, more powerfull SRB could be used to boost the capabilities of existing rockets which are already designed for use with smaller SRB's. You could even use parts of this test model to upgrade existing SRB designs.
Shootist
2.8 / 5 (9) Sep 09, 2011
@GSwift7

If SRBs are so beautiful why aren't all rockets SRBs?

No. NASA uses SRBs, not because of technical superiority, but because its thousands of minions know how to build man-rated SRBs.

http://www.jerryp...ace.html
ShotmanMaslo
2 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2011
What does NASA intend to use it for? The solid rocket boosters on the space shuttle generated a thrust of 2.8 million lbf each. Are we seeing an even much heavier lifter in the future? Inquiring minds want to know.


It is to be used on Space Launch System:

http://en.wikiped...h_System

GSwift7
2.5 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2011
Oh sorry, I forgot my linkage. My quote was from the solid rocket booster wiki page.

http://en.wikiped..._booster

The page goes on to say that the launch cost per lb is about the same with either liquid or solid, but I've heard other sources say that SRB's can be cheaper when you take into account the external systems, ease of use, and safety issues. The cost of a delayed launch due to some small problem with the liquid fuel system is staggering. For every minute of launch delay you might as well be hauling money away in dump trucks. They have planes in the air, ships at sea, agencies all over the world, all sitting around waiting for the launch as the meter turns; cha-ching$, cha-ching$, cha-ching$.
GSwift7
3.8 / 5 (8) Sep 09, 2011
If SRBs are so beautiful why aren't all rockets SRBs?

No. NASA uses SRBs, not because of technical superiority, but because its thousands of minions know how to build man-rated SRBs


There are pro's and con's to both sides. Depends on what you want to do. I'm not aware of any agency that does not use a combination of both liquid and solid fueled motors. Ariane, Delta, Soyouz, all can be fitted with solid boosters as needed (Two, three, four, etc.).

Even the Saturn V used solid fueled motors between the stages for seperation. If you're going to say that Werner Von Braun didn't know how to design a rocket, then you're a loon.
GSwift7
3.6 / 5 (7) Sep 09, 2011
It's like the difference between a cutting torch and a stick of dynamite. They both have dangers and limits. Not good for all jobs. One is simple but the other is precice.
bwvandorn
5 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2011
to GSwift7: Soyuz uses liquid fueled boosters only, and the Proton only uses hypergolics, which can be stored at room temperature.
Not sure I'd count a separation motor as a rocket stage; don't some upper stages use springs?
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
lol, I just came back to make that correction about the Soyuz. Yes, the Soyuz is 100% liquid.

The recent Soyuz failure was supposedly a fuel system failure though. Ironic timing.

No, the separation motor isn't a stage, but I was just pointing out how the job needed determines the tool you use. The above story just adds another tool to the toolbox.
Osiris1
1.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
This looks more like Buzz Aldrin's 'big dumb booster' that he wrote about in one of his books. Modular, it can strap to several of our primary launch vehicles. Like to see one of those BlackLight Power rockets used as primary launch though. Would not need a booster! Single stage to orbit and return....refuel and go again....and again. Oil industry hates this and tries to bury Dr Mills with bought and paid for politicos, but our need to go to space is real and will get more imperative as we start to run out of critical minerals only available from our asteroid belt. Hey, It is our system! We humans are the only species of sentients from this system, so it is our manifest destiny that we claim it! Then there is the guy who knows of a website detailing crossfire fusion and a warp drive. Wonder if it could be made to work? Maybe a little money not soaked in petroleum and beholden to the Middle East.
89118a
3 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2011
Yea!!! NASA still wants segmented death sticks!
89118a
3 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2011
For NASA's next episode of Senate Mormon's in Space I suggest Harry Reid. Any rocket in the world will do if we can get him there before November when they sink the ISS.
Husky
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2011
maybe they strap it to the falcon heavy, so it can get to mars, only half joking here, but seriously what it Nasa planning with it in this age of outsourcing and low budgets?>??
mdr
5 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
I wasn't impressed reading about NASA's new rocket here, but the comments prompted me to browse wikipedia and Skylon looks pretty awesome.

Also, why is the thrust listed in pounds? Does NASA use that unit? I wouldn't be surprised, but it's still ridiculous. It's 16,000 kilonewtons of thrust. (I can ignore Fahrenheit, but thrust is sufficiently technical to warrant a proper SI unit). I bet no one would write an article about Skylon with references to "pounds" of thrust! Actually, I'm sure a lot of Americans would, even though I can't see using the "local unit" helping an average person gauge the amount of thrust since its not a unit most people deal with every day.
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2011
Yes, we use lbs here, even in technical stuff. We buy and measure aircraft fuel in gallons and lbs too. My brother writes helicopter avionics software for the Army, and all their stuff is in lbs, feet, inches, gallons. It makes it easier for them because all the gear is also measured in lbs. So if you want to know how much fuel to take on when you are carrying 1000 lbs or ordenance, you don't have to do a conversion. Everything here is lbs, including thrust. You wanna go fully metric? I'll bet you still use a 24 hour clock, so you're not much better. When you calculate those newtons of thrust, what time measure do you use to get impulse and acceleration? lol. Not a perfect world.
barakn
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
I see the political payola system still has us making SRBs in Utah in segments when it makes far more sense in terms of money and safety to make them in one solid section at point of use.
GSwift7
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 09, 2011
besides, the metric system is set up to accommodate earthly science, with standards based on things like the properties of water. What standards would you prefer if you wanted to tailorize your equations for some other science area such as cosmology? Would it be better to base all the standards on the properties of elemental hydrogen and the properties of light? Food for thought, not intended as an argument to your point about newtons.
GSwift7
2 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
as an interresting side note, and the thing I learned today, in researching this topic. I didn't realize that the four rocket pods on the Soyuz rocket were detachable boosters too. They are liquid fueled, but they come off and reveal the second stage, which is another set of four nozzles hidden underneath them at the base of the central cylinder. I didn't know that.
SR71BlackBird
5 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2011
I'd rather that everyone agrees upon one system of measurement only. Why is it that Americans are so stubborn? Switch to metric already. Miscalculated conversions can be costly or deadly.. or both. Gimli glider anyone?
Humpty
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 09, 2011
Wondering why does a "scientific journal" detailing advanced space rated equipment, and the most on the ball journalists, use a douchebag that uses imperial measurements in the article.

Heyyyy wake up dumbass - this is 2011 - not 1967.

"This series of testing will certify the motor to fly at temperature ranges between 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit"
bwvandorn
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2011
to SR71BlackBird: Last American president that tried to switch us to metric got voted out of office, so that's where it ended. It's a cultural issue, not a scientific one.
ubavontuba
1.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
Ooh! Time to break out the weenies and the marshmellows!

That's a pretty cool rocket!
Horus
3 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2011
I'd rather that everyone agrees upon one system of measurement only. Why is it that Americans are so stubborn? Switch to metric already. Miscalculated conversions can be costly or deadly.. or both. Gimli glider anyone?


Any American Engineer with an ABET accredited Mechanical Engineering degree from a Pac 12 University, like myself, never used English units. We always used SI and I graduated in Mechanical Engineering in 1993. The State of Washington EIT examination was also in SI units back then.

It's only the industry that doesn't want to convert all the road signs, HVAC, Construction and any old standard industry to SI and they proclaim it's the cost, but it's rather clear that the Auto Industry bit the bullet as they've converted their speedometer/odometer gauges to a joint English/SI decades ago.

We've got plenty of slave labor in prisons who pump out license plates. They can surely pump out a KPH and MPH combo, not to mention distance signs. The sooner the better.
89118a
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2011
I see the political payola system still has us making SRBs in Utah in segments when it makes far more sense in terms of money and safety to make them in one solid section at point of use.


This man doth typith the truth! The booster was born of corruption and are known killers. Another 3000 - shuttle folk laid of last month alone are good enough to apply for jobs building any rocket. In fifteen years when you hear of the next segment failing, remember this time, this moment when we had the chance to change and do something/anything better.
Raygunner
5 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2011
Liquid boosters are much safer, you can throttle or even shut the engine down if there is a problem. But when you light a SRB you are going up no matter what - there is no way to stop it. The only control the SRB has is a slight vectoring of the exhaust nozzle with pneumatic actuators. Another issue is when you have two SRB's as with the shuttle. There is a very slight chance that when the command is given to launch, the SRB pyro-initiator (the spark that starts the SRB burn) could fail, causing a catastrophic failure on the pad with only one SRB firing.

A defective SRB joint segment was what destroyed Challenger. Even if engineers saw the failure the second it happened before the shuttle cleared the tower and understood what it was, the vehicle was doomed and there was nothing anyone could do except say "goodbye". Of course SRB's are cheap, and cheap is as American as apple pie! NASA wanted liquid for the shuttle, congress told them solid - money over safety every time! My 2 cents.
ShotmanMaslo
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2011
Liquid Atlas V CCB boosters can be used in place of solid boosters, which would save money in addition to being safer. And liquid boosters burn longer than solids, so thrust advantage of solids is not as big in the end.
Birger
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
The Soyuz (R-7) launcher has a bunch of five units firing at launch- four boosters and one much longer core unit. The design was probably inspired by Tsiolkovsky's idea of a "rocket train" of bunched rockets firing in parallel -this way, all engines would be used for takeoff. In reality, it is not entirely optimaal to use the same rocket engine for take-off (sea-level atmospheric pressure) and near-vacuum. The engine bell design must be a compromise.

A detail; the R-7 is literally the oldest rocket launcher and has only seen minor modicfications since Sputnik 1. This makes it both the most reliable launcher available and one of the cheapest per pound to orbit.
Raygunner
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
The US Atlas rocket uses the Russian-made RD-180 engine because of its reliability - there have been no Atlas failures using this combo. The two RD-180 engines are so powerful that they only need to use about 60% thrust when launching. This minimizes vibrations and gives the satellite perched on top a much smoother ride to orbit. And they are pretty cheap, comparatively speaking.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2011
I'd rather that everyone agrees upon one system of measurement only. Why is it that Americans are so stubborn? Switch to metric already. Miscalculated conversions can be costly or deadly.. or both. Gimli glider anyone?


Older people in America, say 55 and up, are horribly uneducated and absolutely REFUSE to even try to learn the metric system.

It's not just the older people either, you've also got high school drop-outs and the "mediocre" students who prefer to learn as little as possible about math of science, so none of them know the metric system, even though they were supposed to in order to graduate. They "learned" it long enough to make a "c" on the test, and then forgot it the next day.

So yeah, lazy, stupid and uneducated are the reasons, especially for the Baby Boomers (such as my parents and their peers).

That's why so many of our engineers and doctors now come from China, Japan, Taiwan, and India.

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