BOX ELDER COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – The largest solid rocket motor ever built for flight made some noise in Utah’s high desert this week during a static test. The Flight Support Booster, or FSB-2, is one of many rocket motors built by Northrop Grumman that will be used in NASA’s Artemis program. The Artemis program will eventually send astronauts back to the moon.
“This is just so exciting,” Doug Hurley told ABC4. “It’s actually the first time I’ve seen the test of a solid rocket booster.”
Hurley is a retired astronaut (his last trip to space being in 2020) and one of the hundreds of people who made the trip out to Promontory, Utah to watch the static test firing of Northrop Grumman’s FSB-2.
“The only other times I’ve seen them are during launches when we were flying shuttles out of Kennedy, and of course, the two flights I had on a space shuttle,” Hurley stated. “I got to see the top end of them as they separated from the shuttle.”
Hurley may not return to space, but he continues to leave his mark on American space travel. He is the current senior director of strategy and business development at Northrop Grumman. “These boosters are going to help us get back to the moon, so it’s just exciting and it’s great to be a part of it even though I can’t fly the vehicles anymore,” he said. “Just to contribute in this way.”
The FSB-2 is 154 feet long, 12 feet in diameter, weighs 1.6 million pounds, and produces upwards of 3.6 million pounds of thrust. While the test fire is important, officials told ABC4 that what comes next is just as important. For close to six months, scientists and engineers will study the wear and tear of the firing on the FSB-2. This is the only way to ensure that all “systems are go” for a trip to space.
“You can only do so much with analysis,” explained Mark Tobias, chief engineer of the BOLE program at Northrop Grumman. He added, “The proof is always in the pudding when you run a test.”
The FSB-2 will be used on a later version of NASA’s Artemis spacecraft and the two organizations will continue working together.
At the end of August or the beginning of September, NASA will launch its Artemis I spacecraft which will have two rocket boosters similar to the one Thursday afternoon (also built by Northrop Grumman), and those boosters will provide 75 percent of the initial thrust during lift-off.
The flight will be unmanned and will orbit the moon, but that is just the beginning of the many spacecraft that NASA will launch into space as part of the Artemis program.
“Then the subsequent missions, you can look forward to us returning to the moon and the vicinity of the moon,” Tobias stated. “And then ultimately, the SLS (space launch system) architecture is designed to go onto Mars.”