NASA has completed a successful test of the core stage of its powerful next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
The ground-based event took place at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on Thursday, March 18.
All four of the rocket’s RS-25 engines blasted at full power for 8 minutes and 19 seconds, simulating a real launch.
Known as a “hot fire,” Thursday’s test marked a critical milestone ahead of NASA’s upcoming Artemis I mission that will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a test flight around the moon and back to Earth. Artemis I will pave the way for a crewed mission taking the same path, and then a moon landing that will put the first woman and next man on the lunar surface. In the longer term, the rocket could also be used to launch astronauts to Mars.
The test, which you can see in the video at the top of this page, will provide NASA engineers with important data for validating the core stage design for the rocket’s first launch to space.
John Honeycutt, manager for the SLS Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said Thursday’s event “provided the wealth of data we needed to ensure the SLS core stage can power every SLS rocket successfully.”
This week’s full-length fire tested a range of operational conditions, including moving the four engines in specific patterns to direct thrust, and throttling down and back up, as they will during flight.
“Today is a great day for NASA, Stennis, and this nation’s human space exploration program,” said Stennis Center Director Richard Gilbrech. “This final test in the Green Run series represents a major milestone for this nation’s return to the moon and eventual mission to Mars. So many people across the agency and the nation contributed to this SLS core stage, but special recognition is due to the blended team of test operators, engineers, and support personnel for an exemplary effort in conducting the test today.”
Thursday’s four-engine hot fire test is the first since NASA conducted the same procedure in January 2021, which marked the first time that all four SLS rocket engines were fired at once. An apparent anomaly prompted engineers to end that test after about one minute.
The data from the latest test will allow NASA to determine whether it can stick to the provisional November 2021 date for the Artemis I moon mission. Digital Trends will be sure to report the news as soon as it’s announced.
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