NASA engine test taking place at Stennis Space Center Saturday

NASA engine test taking place at Stennis Space Center Saturday”

Mounted in a test facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center in MS, the Space Launch System's (SLS) 212-foot-tall core stage roared to life at 4:27 p.m. local time (2227 GMT) for just more than a minute - well short of the roughly four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the rocket's first launch this November. If all four engines perform normally, they'll produce about 1.6 million pounds of thrust for 485 seconds, or just over eight minutes - the length of time required to deliver an upper-stage rocket and Orion spaceship into orbit.

The hotfire is the eighth and final test in the Green Run, a programme of evaluation carried out by engineers from Nasa and Boeing - the rocket's prime contractor.

The Space Launch System, which is set to bring humans back to the moon under the Artemis program, was subjected to an eight-part test to test all rocket's core stage systems and functionalities.

Described as the "first step in the next era of human exploration", the Artemis mission aims to send the next man and the first woman on the moon.

During the hot fire test, engineers "power up all the core stage systems, load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic, or supercold, propellant into the tanks and fire all four engines at the same time", according to NASA.

Now that the Orion has been transferred to NASA, the EGS team will carry out the final preparations, which include moving it from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy to other facilities at the Space Center for loading with propellants, helium, nitrogen, and ammonia before being integrated into the launch abort system and protective ogive fairing.

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While the hot fire did not last as long as expected, an allotted 100 terabytes of data for engineering analysis and more than 1,400 sensors provided NASA with crucial data in taking the next steps toward the first Artemis missions.

The SLS consists of the huge core stage with two smaller solid rocket boosters (SRBs) attached to the sides. NASA's SLS programme manager John Honeycutt, cautioning the data review from the test is ongoing, told reporters the turnaround time for another hot fire test could be roughly one month.

"Copy that, but we're still running", another official said.

The engines being tested on Saturday contributed to 21 successful shuttle flights over the vehicle's 30-year operational history.

However, SLS is also poised to be one of the most capable platforms.

NASA said the RS-25 engines have been upgraded and refurbished since their last missions and the agency has placed an order with Aerojet Rocketdyne, recently acquired by Northrop Grumman, for 24 brand new versions.

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