NASA has confirmed that its $1 billion, SLS Mobile Launcher tower is leaning, although there is currently no need to take any corrective action.
The tower has leaned a little toward the North, which is in the direction of the rocket on the launch pad.
“NASA’s mobile launcher is structurally sound, built to specifications and does not require a design change or modifications,” a spokesperson told NASASpaceFlight.com.
“As expected, the mobile launcher is not perfectly still,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also added that the lean could be the result of “a combination of welding the different levels and modifying them one at a time from the mobile launcher’s original design for the Ares rocket, changes introduced in the structure during these modifications and the additional mass.”
“Throughout the installation process, the construction contractor has regularly taken laser survey measurements of the tower to ensure it meets critical system tolerances where the rocket and spacecraft will interface with the mobile launcher.”
A leaning tower of launch is probably not what NASA had in mind for their mobile launcher.https://t.co/qEGwJBHep0
— Solutions Cubed (@Solutions_Cubed) February 24, 2018
“All our predictions and actual measured deflections have been in agreement, which indicates we have a solid understanding of how much the mobile launch tower naturally moves and confirms no ‘corrective actions’ are required,” the spokesperson noted.
This Mobile Launcher was originally made for NASA’s Ares program that aimed to support exploration outside the Earth’s orbit. The plan was to build the Ares V rocket to supply cargo to Mars and support human presence on the Red planet. NASA also had plans to launch a crew of four to six astronauts to Mars aboard the Orion spacecraft using Ares I rocket. In 2010, NASA scrapped this program and rolled out Space Launch System (SLS) as the core program for outer space exploration. The Mobile Launcher was then repurposed for the SLS.
— The Onramp To Space (@OrbitalOnramp) February 20, 2018
SLS is expected to be completed in a few years. The mobile launching tower would keep the rocket upright and stable on the platform during the launch. However, due to its leaning, chances are it would be used for a single launch only. The Mobile Launcher is about 400 feet tall and weighs more than 10 million pounds. This huge size and complexity of the Launcher could be the main reason for the issues that this Launcher is currently facing.
As NASA says the Launcher doesn’t need corrective actions, it suggests the Launcher probably won’t be utilized for more than one or two launches, and the space agency may decide to build a new launcher if it wants to send more than a few SLS rockets in space over the next few decades.