Dynetics completes NASA’s new SLS Universal Stage Adapter preliminary design review

Tuesday March 20, 2018

Dynetics, along with its partners, successfully completed the universal stage adapter (USA) preliminary design review for NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket designed to send humans to deep space. The adapter is critical for carrying additional cargo during Exploration Mission-2, the first crewed flight of SLS and NASA's Orion spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch by 2023. This was the first review of its kind for the Dynetics designed hardware for future SLS configuration that can send up to 37 metric tons (81,000 lbs) to the Moon.

"The USA is a critical piece of hardware for the SLS Block 1B configuration. It provides extra space for large cargos to be flown on the same mission that NASA is flying Orion and astronauts. We are nailing down the preliminary design now so we can proceed to final design and production," said Robert Wright, Dynetics USA project manager.

NASA's Space Launch System is the only human-rated vehicle capable of sending the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and a large cargo to the Moon during a single mission. Orion is designed to sustain a crew of four for up to three weeks on missions beyond low-Earth orbit. The USA is key to carrying large payloads such as habitats, landers and scientific equipment on the SLS. The 32-foot tall and 27-foot diameter USA will integrate the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) and Payload Adapter (PLA) needed for carrying cargo along with Orion, while supplying structural, electrical, and communication paths.

The USA will also provide environmental control to payloads during integrated ground operations, launch and ascent phases. The USA will encapsulate co-manifested payloads and secondary payloads on the EUS/PLA. The USA's maximum payload and internal volume will be 10,100 ft3.

The preliminary design review included NASA and industry experts reviewing documents and data that are essential to the design, development and performance of the hardware. The review team analyzed thermal environments, buckling, loads and other system and subsystem requirements over four weeks.  The review's final discussions allowed for experts to question the team about the hardware and its design and future construction.

"This is a major accomplishment, not only for Dynetics, but for our partners - RUAG Space, ZIN Technologies, Craig Technologies, DCI, Paragon Tec, Tuskegee University and Systima. We were awarded this contract in June 2017 and to move this quickly through PDR is a true testament to the leadership and engineering prowess that makes up this group. I could not be prouder of our team," Wright added.

The board voted unanimously that the USA is ready to move to the critical design phase. The critical design review will occur in September 2019.

Once the reviews are completed, key parts of the USA will be manufactured at Dynetics facilities in Huntsville and Decatur and at the RUAG Space USA facility in Decatur. Qualification testing will be performed at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. After integration and assembly, it will be delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida by a barge to prepare for a launch.  

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