NASA’s SLS rocket is the most powerful rocket the agency has every built. It should be no surprise that the two five-segment SRBs and four RS-25 engines left behind a bit of damage at the pad. Yesterday, NASA shared some of the first photos showing the Mobile Launcher, and the damage it sustained, up close.
While some amount of damage was certainly expected, the teams were delayed longer than expected in safeing the pad. While media were supposed to pick up our remote cameras on the afternoon of the launch day, we were not able to enter the pad to retrieve the last of our cameras until two days later. This was, in part, because pneumatic nitrogen lines had been burst, so oxygen sensors at the pad were reading low oxygen levels.
The most visually stunning of the damage on the mobile launcher is certainly the elevator doors – which are entirely knocked out of place, with some of them missing.
Another photo shows one of the cameras on the mobile launcher being scorched by the immense heat of the solid rocket boosters, with the cables to the camera burning.
While this damage looks quite bad from the outside, teams assessing the Mobile Launcher structure itself found nothing out of place. With the next launch of SLS a while away, NASA’s teams will have time to go through and fix the elevators, pneumatics, and other more surface-level damage.
In addition to the damage to the Mobile Launcher itself, NASA’s drone video showed the singed grass both along the flame trench and inside the launchpad. This isn’t unexpected, but it demonstrates the violence of the rocket and just how powerful the exhaust remains even a long distance away.