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The Story Behind NTS’s Award-Winning Work for NASA

May 18, 2021

In 2020, NTS was awarded the prestigious Space Flight Awareness award from NASA for accelerating work on the SLS program in 2019. It was the first time that this award has ever been given to an independent test laboratory. What’s the story behind this remarkable achievement?

As a trusted partner for space testing, NTS has long been the industry’s go-to test lab for historic space missions. In fact, NTS has participated in every major space program since the inception of manned space flight. From the Apollo 11 mission to the recent Mars rover landing, NTS has been part of it all.

In 2019, the SLS program appeared to be slipping away from it goal of sending a woman to the moon by 2024. After all, this was an ambitious goal. The good news is that accelerating testing was possible—but it required a new way of thinking. As a result, NTS offered a unique solution.

In an effort to streamline operations, NTS worked directly with Boeing Company—and established one leadership team to work with all NTS laboratories. On the technical side, we also decided to create a dedicated team that spanned across all of our labs. The goal was simple. Focus exclusively on SLS work—and execute flawlessly. And yes, this included around-the-clock testing, providing SLS testing 24-hours a day, seven days a week for several months.

According to NASA, the SLS is expected to be “the largest rocket” in history—and there is no room for error. Within this in mind, NTS provided expert test services in the following areas:

LO2 and LH2 12” Prevalves

  • Vibration and pyrotechnic shock tests at -320 F
  • Functional tests with liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen
  • Water flow testing at approximately 10,000 GPM

LO2 and LH2 Vent and Relief Valves

  • Vibration and pyrotechnic shock tests at -320 F
  • Functional tests with liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen
  • Functional tests of the LH2 VRV with gaseous hydrogen and flow rates > 10 PPS

LH2 Fill and Drain Valve

  • Vibration and pyrotechnic shock tests at -320 F
  • Functional tests with liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen

Disconnect Assemblies

  • Vibration and pyrotechnic shock tests at -320 F
  • Functional tests with liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen

Fuel and Oxidizer Manifolds

  • Vibration and shock with combined full flow requirements using GN2 and GHe
  • Full functional tests with gaseous nitrogen and gaseous hydrogen
  • Oxygen compatibility tests with hot gaseous hydrogen at high temperatures

LH2 LO2 Feed line Assemblies

  • Dual shaker vibration tests at -320F with gaseous and liquid nitrogen utilizing specialized bearing and fixture techniques not previously used in the industry
  • Thermal shock testing where the UUT was heated to +160F and then flushed with liquid hydrogen (-423F) at a flow rate of 7 PPS

As a result of this effort, NTS was nominated by both Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin for the prestigious space award. According to Lockheed Martin, “The qualification and testing of hardware for human-rated space flight systems is unique and extensive; and is a critical step in delivering to NASA the safest and most reliable systems for human space exploration. At the at the Washington IAF conference in Washington D.C in 2020, NTS was officially awarded the NASA FSA award.

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