Why NASA will keep many details of this week’s Megarocket test a secret

SLS on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SLS on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Photo: NASA / Ben Smegelsky

Critical test for NASA’s next space launch System This rocket starts Friday, but the live stream of wet dress workouts promises to be boring and silent due to security concerns. We live in mysterious times, no doubt, but some Experts say that this quantization Over the top and unhelpful.

It’s been almost two weeks since SLS rolled On our way to launch Platform 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 322-foot rocket, after tons of anticipation, is nearly ready for prime time. All that is required now is a successful rehearsal, during which propellant will be loaded into the launcher’s tanks and a countdown rehearsal will be performed by the launch team.

“It’s the last design validation before launch,” said Tom Whitmaier, NASA’s Associate Deputy Administrator for Joint Exploration Systems Development. Today at a remote media conference. “WHe said e can learn something”, but the goal in the end is to “go beyond the number” and see how the SLS performs during the actual test. The team will then evaluate the data And the, Assuming all is well, declare a The inaugural launch date for the SLS – the Artemis mission 1 – is during the week of April 11.

The wet dress rehearsal is scheduled to begin on Friday, April 1 at 5:00 p.m. EST and ends with tanks drying on Sunday, April 3 at approximately 4:30 p.m. EST. NASA will broadcast the entire test in Kennedy Newsroom YouTube ChannelBut “without a voice or comment,” according to A press release. As Whitmer explained in the media, At the conference, journalists will not have the usual access to detailed information on the countdown.

This is a surprise, to say the least. A lot happens during wet clothes workouts, but this time we won’t be able to follow it in real time. NASA says some details will be made available on its social media platforms, including Artemis Blogbut the extent to which the information was shared is unknown.

The reason for the silence is International Arms Trade Regulations (Itar) Concerns about sharing or “exporting” sensitive information. In the case of the SLS, Whitmer said America’s competitors could infer cryogenic timing information to aid the development of ballistic missile systems. Accordingly, NASA will “avoid any specific timing, flow, or other types of things that would inadvertently give an indication of specific characteristics of the processes we are experiencing.”

Whitmer added that NASA is being very careful in light of “the environment we live in at the moment,” and said That the space agency could not risk revealing sensitive information. It most likely refers to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and recent weapons tests in North Korea.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, wasn’t convinced that ITAR-imposed silence during the SLS wet-clothes rehearsal would do anything.

“The problem with any such security authorization is that it is not usually implemented by people who have the technical understanding needed to know what is really useful to others,” such as China, for example, or “what might not be useful,” He told me in an email. “Thus, it is heavily enforced-enthusiastically, to the point that the degree to which he hampers free communication is more harmful than any danger he protects against.”

Whitmer said reporters will be provided with a general timetable for the countdown later this week And that a media conference after the test will be held on Monday, April 4th.

For the (final) Artemis mission, Whitmeyer hopes that NASA will “provide normal calls” during the real launch. That would be big, but we obviously don’t live in any longer.”Normal” times.

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