Space Launch System(SLS) Acoustical Model Testing

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is marching forward through major milestones to its first unmanned launch in 2017.  Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) has completed its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the launch vehicle and is moving toward Critical Design Review (CDR) to be conducted in early 2015.  At Kennedy Space Center (KSC) the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program is currently in the middle of a PDR looking closely at the facilities and ground support equipment (GSE) that will be required to safely launch the SLS.


So, much work needs to be completed just to define the design of the launch pad and GSE.  This requires both cooperation in the exchange of data between the SLS Program and the GSDO Program and coordination of major tests to support the final design work.  In the middle of this effort is a group at MSFC that is conducting Vibro-Acoustical testing of 1/20th scale models of the SLS at launch.  A team of engineers and technicians for the ESSSA contract have been assigned to a task order to support this testing at MSFC Test Stand 116.  ERC Instrumentation Engineer, Ernie Wooten, is playing a key role in conducting Acoustical Model Testing.  Ernie’s primary role is coordinating the activities associated with preparing the instrumentation for receiving test data from the models.  To do this affordably, Wooten is also working with NASA engineers to use acoustical knowledge obtained from both the Shuttle and Ares to design SLS Acoustical Model Tests to accurately represent a launch sequence.  The 1/20th scale model being tested consists of 4 core stage liquid engines and 2 solid rocket boosters.

Most of Ernie’s work is on the test stand and models using engineering drawings and other data to direct the team in the placement and mounting of sensors to detect the magnitude of shock waves and pressure waves for a launch site during the ignition and liftoff sequence.  Results and analysis will be used to design acoustic water sprayed around the pad during the launch sequence.  The water spray dampens the noise thus reducing shock and pressure waves which could potentially damage the launch vehicle.

Ernie stated that this project has been on-going for over a year and will likely last another year before GSDO has all the data required for designing the application of acoustic water and a successful launch.


  1. Cheryl Davis on February 28, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    This was fascinating! We do a lot of interesting work on our contracts; I am really looking forward to reading posts like this from all over ERC.

  2. Bruce LaVerde on February 28, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    The SMAT testing described provides very unique and valuable data that assists in setting the design requirements for all of the systems that have to endure and function throughout the demanding launch environment. Over pressure blast waves as well as other transient and steady state acoustic sources of energy are reflected onto the vehicle surfaces. Instrumenting the vehicle to measure these sources that cause vibration and transient vehicle response to the blast is important. The test resources that permit investigation of the different options for mitigating and reducing these sources of energy using water are an incredible resource for designing the water attenuation. I feel honored that our employees would garner the opportunity to contribute to a worthy project of this sort. Thanks to the whole team who are working to provide this unique data.