Last week, NASA successfully tested their 6th in the developmental RS-25 engine-testing for 8.5 minutes, the time it will offiicially take the new SLS rocket to launch and reach earth’s orbit. Lights Magazine was there on behalf of NASA Social attending with 50 other attendees tweeting, blogging and snapping away using hashtags #slsfiredup #nasasocial and #journeytomars while witnessing a milestone that brings the U.S. one step closer to launching astronauts back into orbit and deep space starting in 2018 – and it was a earth shaking event.
The day-long NASA Social event began at south Mississippi’s Stennis Space Center which is America’s largest rocket engine test center. Kicking off the agenda was NASA’s Social Media Manager, John Yembrick and introducing a three panel discussions that began with a surprise from NASA’s Deputy Administrator, Dr. Dava Newman, who was this year nominated by President Obama and confirmed in May, rallied cheers from the crowd as she talked about the milestones that NASA is achieving in beginning America’s Journey to Mars.
Pictured: Dr. Dava Newman, NASA Deputy Administrator
Pictured: John Yembrick, NASA’s Social Media Manager
After a lively Q & A with officials from Stennis Space Center and Aerojet Rocketdyne, we were given a behind the scenes tour of Rocketdyne seeing the RS-25 engines being prepped testing and shipping to Cape Canaveral. Rocketdyne provides propulsion and energetics to NASA and other defense industries nationally and internationally.
The engine that did and will do.
The RS-25 Engine is already quite famous as it was used on all shuttle engines in groups of 3 for each launch and easily one of the featured imagines during live broadcasts and now can be viewed on shuttles who are on display around the country. With NASA’s upgrade, the RS-25 has received a new “brain.” Think of it in these terms, imagine working with dial-up internet for years and then receiving gigabit internet – that’s the magnitude in upgrades this engine has received. Regarded as “the Ferrari of Engines” it’s one of the world’s most powerful and reliable engines, standing at 14ft tall, 8 feet in diameter and weighing 7,775 pounds. Unlike the shuttle, the new SLS rocket will used 4 engines to power the core stage for deep space missions as shown below.
Rendering of Space Launch System SLS, Block 1 | Credit: NASA
After touring the test stand sites, which are impressive in size and awe inspiring, we arrived Stennis’ A-1 Test Stand — and we were just under 2 miles away from the tower that would shake the ground beneath our feet and bust ear drums if you were not wearing protective ear wear which NASA made several rounds in the crowd to make sure everyone was covered. Just under several hundred people at the test site, cameras were perched and devices were ready heating up getting ready to share this truly unique experience.
In attendance were NASA, Rocketdyne officials along with several astronauts, one who we met, Astronaut Jeannette Epps, who did a Q & A during our luncheon, communicating about her experiences coming up in a program that is tough to get into as well as one where she didn’t have a military background. A story of note she shared was living aboard Aquarius and NASA’s underwater mission named NEMO, which give astronauts a true experience of living in close quarters for long periods of time among other challenges. Jeanette is and will definitely be an inspiration to all women and children who are wanting to venture into the field of aerospace engineering.
At the 1-minute mark, we were giving the warning to cover our ears and prep our cameras. As the exhaust billowed out faster than a crashing wave, the 120 dB roar screamed across the fields as the RS-25 engine operated from temps starting at -423 F to 6000 F. There were a few brief moments of intensity as the engine was pushed to higher levels to reach the maximum thrust it would endure for an actual launch – and you couldn’t help but wonder at the engineering of the engine alone but of the testing facility that is able to safely deflect and hold the ferocity of the output.
535-seconds seemed like an eternity, but standing there thinking about the first astronauts that will be rocketed into space by all four engines, seemed unfathomable given what we were witnessing. With the RS-25 engines configured with the two additional rocket boosters, the SLS will have 8.4 million pounds of thrust – equivalent to 31 times the thurst of a 747 jet.
Several Astronauts including Jeanette Epps (facing) gathering at the press site for viewing the engine test.
Inside view of the RS-25 Engine ignited. | Credit: NASA
Test Stand A-1, stands 158’ tall, with a flame deflector that has thousands of holes that spray water to cool the heat and deaden the sound.
Thanks to NASA Social
Again, attending this event was due in part of NASA’s genius social program where 50 “enthusiats” with diverse backgrounds, some mainly in publishing, affiliated agencies and social media, apply for an opportunity to attend one of the many events year-round that NASA has put together in conjunction with either a launch, technology reveal, or as recently a visit to an observatory to watch the Pluto fly-by, to correspond with NASA officials and distribute NASA’s story through a personal lens — one in particular is that NASA IS NOT DEAD!
Attendees who are selected from a pool of several thousands become “social alums” after attending and are instantly networked with those within their groups forging professional contacts and life-long friendships. Those attending are treated just as equal as national press raising questions and thoughts on NASA’s Live TV during Q&A’s with scientists, engineers, developers and as well as top NASA officials. Heading up the program is NASA Social Media Manager John Yembrick and NASA Deputy Social Media Manager, Jason Townsend who work with the various NASA centers across the U.S. in developing and implementing the schedules, speakers and hospitality for each of the socials. To learn how you can become propel the story of NASA and our continued efforts in space, visit NASA’s Social site here.
If you already didn’t know, America is having it’s own next space race — NASA, Space X and Boeing’s ULA are competing and yet working together on getting safely to Mars first with a target date of 2024 if not sooner. At NASA Social, the overall event doesn’t require much in visual spectacle as the hardware and software are the forefront of the presentation beyond a standard event confined to a building or facility, but witnessing and sharing the experience is just as valuable.
To demonstrate, just one of several hashtags used during the event, #slsfiredup, generated 20,440,326 Twitter impressions with 1,500 tweets. A huge impact!
As traditional, digital media and the public at large become more aware of the huge implications of what America is doing again in space beyond standard enthusiast circles as we did in the golden age of the Apollo missions, we will truly be witnessing and among one of the greatest events of the 21st century which in our opinion will provide a greater opportunity for the events production industry to be a part of and work within.