NASA and Orbital ATK on the 28th June 2016 fired up a solid rocket booster which is tentatively scheduled to assist the launches of the Space Launch System (SLS), which is currently scheduled for late 2018.
This was the major test for the solid rocket booster which is slated to assist the SLS on its maiden and successive missions to follow the inaugural flight which slated to launch No Later Than (NLT) by November 2018. This has also been written into the law by senators and legislators, and NASA and partners are legally obligated to meet this deadline. The first launch of SLS is expected to launch the new Orion capsule for a flyby (and possible orbits) of the Moon, and will be the first time in over 50 years that a human-rated crew capsule has left the bounds of Earth’s gravity.
This Five Segment Solid Rocket booster was the second and final test of the booster before the flight in November 2018. The first test, QM-1, was test fired in June of 2015, and was tested for the heat extremes which the Solid Rocket Booster may encounter on the pad and flight. That test was known as a Hot Test, enabling data to be collected on how the booster would perform at higher temperatures. QM-2 was being tested with a Cold Test conditions, testing how a booster would perform being below the normal temperatures being expected to be seen on the test stand, and ultimately in flight. The booster test firing was delayed from its initial firing time due to a Ground Computer which would collect the data being at fault. However that fault was ultimately resolved and the test fire was rescheduled for the same day, about an hour later than originally scheduled.
The test successfully began at 9:05 (local), 15:05 (UTC) and began a 2 minute test of the performance of the booster in the test conditions which were set. The solid rocket motor fired just over 2 minutes as intended and was hailed as a success by both NASA and the prime contractor for the boosters for SLS, Orbital ATK. Over the coming months, the data which was collected from this test will be analysed and placed into the production models which will support the launches of the SLS. For the maiden launch of the SLS, the first of two solid rocket boosters are currently in production, with first 3 segments of the first 5 segment solid rocket booster already being produced. In late 2017 / early 2018 all segments of the booster slated to go on the maiden flight will be joined together and the building of the first flight hardware will begin ahead of testing at KSC both in the VAB and on the pad.
This is a very exciting time to be a space fan, for both for Government programs, including that of SLS Program and that of the Commercial Sector with SpaceX, Arianespace, United Launch Alliance and the dark horse of Blue Origin.