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Artemis IV Mission Advances with Completion of SLS Payload Adapter Testing
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Artemis IV Mission Advances with Completion of SLS Payload Adapter Testing
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 22, 2024

The Space Launch System (SLS) has achieved a significant milestone towards the Artemis IV mission with the readiness of its payload adapter for testing, signifying a major step for the mission's success. This adapter, critical for connecting the spacecraft to the rocket, has evolved from the design used in the first three Artemis missions and is now ready for structural evaluation.

Constructed of two metal rings and eight composite panels, the payload adapter introduces a cone shape, integrating into the SLS Block 1B's universal stage adapter. This new configuration, replacing the Orion stage adapter, enhances the connection between the rocket and spacecraft. The adapter's design and testing were conducted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, emphasizing the center's capabilities in automated fiber placement and large-scale integration, which support the Artemis missions' composite hardware elements production.

Casey Wolfe, Assistant Branch Chief for the Advanced Manufacturing Branch at Marshall, highlighted the importance of Marshall's facilities in producing and testing the adapter, contributing to the Artemis missions' efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The payload adapter measures approximately 8.5 feet in height, with each of its eight composite sandwich panels extending about 12 feet in length, incorporating a metallic honeycomb structure that tapers to a carbon fiber layer at each end. The determinant assembly method ensures precision in the adapter's construction.

Scheduled for structural testing at Marshall, the adapter will undergo a series of evaluations to assess its strength and durability against various stresses. These tests, starting this spring, are crucial for validating the adapter's design before it is employed in the Artemis IV mission. The payload adapter's manufacturing and testing processes, informed by data from these evaluations, will be pivotal for the customization required for each SLS Block 1B configuration, depending on the mission's specific needs.

The SLS forms a fundamental part of NASA's deep space exploration infrastructure, aiming to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, in collaboration with international partners. It is the only rocket capable of transporting the Orion spacecraft, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

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