The desert of Promontory Point, Utah was “fired up” on June 30th, 2016 as NASA and Orbital ATK conducted one of the final tests on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to be used in the next-generation space missions. The specific exercise tested the rocket’s motor at low temperatures, specifically 40° F.  Aggreko, one of ABC’s customers, designed a portable cooling system consisting of chillers and air handlers that lowered the temperature of a specially constructed, portable building that surrounds the SLS rocket.  A modified version of ABC’s 15WK ducting was used by Aggreko to facilitate the chilling process. 

In order to bring all of the rocket’s components down to a satisfactory test temperature, cold conditioning began at the end of April.  Pending results, the SLS rocket’s next stop will be the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida where it will undergo final testing.  If everything stays on-schedule, an unmanned mission is scheduled to launch in November 2018. 

You may be asking yourself, “Why is cold testing important if this is going to launch in Florida?”  One word, Challenger.  When the space shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28th, 1986, the outside air temperature was 36° F.  Upon extensive investigation, it was determined that the O-rings in the rocket boosters failed because of low temperatures.  In order to avoid another such tragedy, NASA and Orbital ATK implemented extensive high and low temperature testing at ATK’s Promontory Point, Utah proving ground.    

“The SLS rocket is the largest, most powerful solid propellent booster ever built for flight,” according to the rocket’s manufacturer, Orbital ATK.  Each booster stands 300 feet tall and burns six tons of propellent every second.   Orbital ATK states that each booster produces more thrust than 14, four-engine jumbo commercial
airliners.  Once assembled at Kennedy Space Center, the entire SLS rocket will tower over the landscape at 17-stories high.

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