NASA successfully test-fired the core stage of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the second time on Thursday afternoon.
The powerful moon rocket’s four RS-25 engines fired for eight minutes and 19 seconds at approximately 4:37 p.m. ET at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
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The “Green Run” series hot fire test of the 212-foot-tall core stage marks what NASA says is a “critical milestone” ahead of their future lunar missions.
The core stage design will be used for all configurations of the 322-foot-tall SLS rocket and the team will use the data from their tests to validate the design for flight.
“The SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built, and during today’s test the core stage of the rocket generated more than 1.6 million pounds of thrust within seven seconds. The SLS is an incredible feat of engineering and the only rocket capable of powering America’s next-generation missions that will place the first woman and the next man on the Moon,” Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a Thursday release.
“Today’s successful hot fire test of the core stage for the SLS is an important milestone in NASA’s goal to return humans to the lunar surface – and beyond,” he added.
NASA’s first hot fire test of the SLS core stage was conducted on Jan. 16, when the four engines fired for approximately one minute. The test was aborted earlier than planned due to an error with the hydraulic system, reinforcing the need for a second, longer hot fire test.
The second hot fire test allowed engineers to try out a multitude of operational conditions, like directing thrust, throttling up and down and power the engines up to 100%.
The propellant tanks in the core stage can hold more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic propellant and simulate almost 2 million pounds of thrust.
In addition, the stage — for which Boeing is the prime contractor — is technologically advanced, with sophisticated flight software and avionics systems, propulsion systems and hydraulic systems.
Next, the stage will be refurbished as needed and shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch of the Artemis I mission.
Artemis I, which is very tentatively scheduled for liftoff by the end of the year, will use an SLS rocket to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a flight around the moon and back to Earth.
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“Today is a great day for NASA, Stennis and this nation’s human space exploration program. 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,” said Stennis Center Director Richard Gilbrech. “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.”
The John C. Stennis Space Center is the country’s largest rocket engine test complex.