NASA and ATK successfully completed the first test for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) booster program March 28, 2012, at ATK's Promontory, UT, test facility. This demonstration was a key avionics and controls test designated Flight Control Test 1 (FCT-1) and included a fully integrated flight heritage thrust vector control (TVC) system with the new SLS booster avionics subsystem.
The avionics subsystem is responsible for booster ignition, nozzle steering and booster separation. This test will specifically focus on the avionics subsystem's ability to start-up, monitor, steer, and shut down an SLS booster nozzle TVC system.
This test marks the first time a new avionics subsystem interfaced with and controlled a previously developed TVC system, performing an SLS launch simulation. The avionics subsystem is responsible for commanding the vectoring of the booster's nozzles during flight. In addition to a new avionics subsystem, the test included new electronic ground support equipment, which monitored and coordinated activities between the test facilities, avionics subsystem, and TVC system. This test effort is one in a series of tests to reduce risk and validate the avionics subsystem design early in development life cycle.
"Today's test was a great milestone for ATK and NASA's SLS program," says Fred Brasfield, ATK's vice president, Next-Generation Booster. "The results not only validate the system, but also our streamlining efforts to produce a product that is robust, sustainable, and affordable."
Designed in from the onset of developing a new avionics subsystem was affordability. From a common chassis design, to utilization of 14 common circuit cards, to standardization of cable designs, to single piece process flow – the company has incorporated lean manufacturing and continuous improvement principles in the avionics design.
"This successful test of the Flight Control System is a big step forward for NASA's Space Launch System, an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit," Brasfield says.
Two additional tests are planned for the avionics and controls system, culminating in supporting the first Qualification test of the five-segment motor, which is currently scheduled for spring 2013.