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目标火星:世界最强力助推器通过最后测试

(2016-07-01 08:14:26)
分类: 科学与技术

6月28日,数千名航天爱好者汇集在犹他州(Utah)一条偏僻的道路旁,观看一枚火箭发动机横卧在地——哪里也不去。

是的,它没有发射升空。然而航天机构的有关人员却兴奋不已。

这是因为这架发动机(严格说它是“航天发射系统助推器”[Space Launch System Booster]的一部分)产生了足够的驱动力,能够将一枚火箭送上飞越月球并飞向火星甚至可能更远的航程。研发这一火箭助推发动机的私营公司Orbital ATK所进行的这次升空前的最后一次点火测试获得了成功。助推器的第一次出征使命有可能就在2018年。

火箭助推发动机在两分钟的测试中有如下表现:

  • 发动机每秒燃烧6吨火箭燃料,产生推进力160万公斤。
  • 600万公斤水泥将推进发动机牢牢固定在地面。
  • 发动机尾部喷管喷射出的摄氏2000度的烈焰和气体将四周沙子融化成玻璃。
  • 工程师将发动机冷却到摄氏4度,模拟在佛罗里达州肯尼迪航天中心(Florida’s Kennedy Space Center)发射台上可能遇到的低温天气。

助推发动机顺利通过第二次,也是最后一次测试后,将在2018年被运往发射台,帮助执行将不载人的猎户座飞行器(Orion spacecraft)送往超越月球并返航,同时为国际合作伙伴运送十几个小型卫星(cubesats)。

两个助推器,连同四个航天飞机强化引擎,将成为美国航空航天局(NASA)执行前往深太空和最终飞往火星使命的太空发射系统(Space Launch System)的驱动力。

Fired up for Mars: World’s most powerful booster passes final test

Thousands of space enthusiasts lined a Utah desert roadside June 28 to watch a horizontal rocket motor go nowhere.

There was no liftoff — but space agency officials were thrilled all the same.

That’s because this motor (technically it’s part of the “Space Launch System Booster”) delivers enough thrust to help power a rocket past the moon and on toward Mars, and possibly beyond. Orbital ATK, the private company that developed the booster, successfully test-fired its motor in a final preflight tuneup. It may power its first mission as soon as 2018.

Here’s what happened during the two-minute burn:

  • The motor burned through 6 tons of propellant per second, producing 1.6 million kilograms of thrust.
  • 6 million kilograms of concrete kept the booster anchored to the ground
  • With flames and gases shooting out of the rear nozzle at 2,000 degrees Celsius, the surrounding sand melted into glass.
  • Engineers cooled the motor to about 4 degrees Celsius to simulate a very chilly day on the launch pad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

Now that the booster has passed the second of its two qualifying burns, it will head to the launch pad in 2018 to help send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft past the moon and back, delivering more than a dozen miniature satellites called “cubesats” from international partners.

Two boosters, together with four upgraded space shuttle engines, will power NASA’s Space Launch System for missions to deep space and eventually, to Mars.

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