Sometimes there’s things on the internet which, for some mysterious reason, you could just watch over and over again. An exploding rocket plug is apparently one of them.
The video above was taken at NASA contractor Orbital’s test site in Promontory, Utah. Orbital is producing the new Space Launch System (SLS) for NASA, and someone decided to take video footage during the test for research purposes, and then to slow it down quite a bit.
It’s fairly common practice to place a foam plug in the exhaust of a booster rocket prior to launch. The theory behind it is that it protects the fragile innards from damage prior to liftoff. Obviously plain old foam is no match for millions upon millions of pounds of thrust, so it is blown out when the rocket ignites.
Apparently, as part of the SLS test, NASA was also testing a denser version of foam than they were already using. The agency want as little heat, dust, and moisture to get inside the booster as possible, all of which might prevent a successful launch.
This is the same rocket booster we first showed you in June at another test at the facility. This video is just a slowed-down portion of the first part of the video showing the protective foam being blasted to bits, and then vaporized by the intense heat of the rocket’s fiery exhaust.
Temperatures reached about 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and what bits of foam that weren’t immediately vaporized were found up to 2,000 feet away following the test. It’s also the final test before an uncrewed test is performed in 2016, which will carry a prototype of the Orion crew capsule.