A critical connection between NASA's new rocket and its twin solid rocket boosters that will help it get to space proved it could withstand millions of pounds of launch stress during a series of ground tests.

NASA and ATK engineers complete structural loads testing on the SLS booster forward skirt at ATK’s facility. (ATK)

The booster forward skirt, which houses the electronics responsible for igniting, steering, and jettisoning the two five-segment boosters and carries most of the forces acting on the boosters during launch, is one of two places at the top and bottom of the booster where it is attached by struts to the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage. When completed, SLS will be capable of taking a crew and cargo on deep space missions, including to an asteroid and eventually Mars.

For the forward skirt test, conducted by ATK, engineers used increments of force — about 200,000 pounds per minute — to prove the design capabilities meet the strength requirements, with sufficient margin. The structure was also subjected to a combination of axial and lateral loads, which are critical at liftoff. The team intentionally took the hardware beyond required margins — not typical for structural loads testing on this scale.

Click here to watch a video of the test on Tech Briefs TV at www.techbriefs.com/tv/booster-test.

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Aerospace