NASA Test Fires the World’s Largest Rocket Core Stage

The core phase for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen in the B-2 test stand during a hot fire test on January 16, 2021 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. NASA television

To get the next generation of astronauts to the moon, you need a large rocket. This is exactly what NASA is working on with its Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-duty launcher that includes the largest rocket stage in the world and will take astronauts from Earth to the surface of the moon and eventually to Mars as part of the Artemis program.

SLS has suffered a fair amount of delays and cost overruns, but the project is close to being ready for an unmanned test flight later this year. Yesterday, its core phase was put through its paces in a hot fire test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This was the culmination of a series of tests called the Green Run.

The four RS-25 engines fired for a little over a minute, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust as they would on a launch. However, it was planned to fire the engines for more than 8 minutes and it is not yet clear why the engines were shut down prematurely.

The four RS-25 engines fired a little over a minute, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust.The four RS-25 engines fired a little over a minute, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust. NASA television

“Saturday’s test was an important step forward in ensuring that the core phase of the SLS rocket was ready for the Artemis I mission and to take the crew on future missions,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement . “Although the engines didn’t fire all the time, the team successfully completed the countdown, ignited the engines and gathered valuable data to inform our way forward.”

NASA teams will now evaluate the data and try to figure out why the engines are failing and how to fix the problem.

“It was a major milestone for the Space Launch System team to see all four engines ignite for the first time during the core-phase hot fire test,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville , Alabama. “We will analyze the data and what we learned from today’s test will help us plan the right path to verify that this new core phase is ready for flight on the Artemis I mission.”

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