On Thursday afternoon, NASA successfully tested the central stage of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the second time.
At 4:37 p.m. ET, NASA’s Stennis Space Center outside Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the powerful moon rocket’s four RS-25 engines shot for eight minutes and 19 seconds.
The 212-foot-tall core stage’s “Green Run” sequence hot fire test is a “critical milestone” for NASA’s potential lunar missions, according to the agency.
The team will use the results from their experiments to verify the concept for takeoff. The central stage design will be used for all configurations of the 322-foot-tall SLS rocket.
“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.
He went on to state “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,”
On Jan. 16, NASA performed the first hot fire test of the SLS core stage, in which the four engines fired for around one minute. The test was called off sooner than expected due to a hydraulic device malfunction, highlighting the need for a second, longer hot fire test.
Engineers were able to check out a variety of operating situations during the second hot fire drill, including steering thrust, throttling up and down, and powering the engines up to 100%.
The core stage’s cryogenic propellant tanks will store over 700,000 gallons of cryogenic propellant and simulate about 2 million pounds of thrust.
The stage is also technologically advanced, with complex flight technologies and avionics equipment, as well as combustion and hydraulic systems, for which Boeing is the prime contractor.
The stage will then be refurbished if required before being transported to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the Artemis I mission’s launch.
Artemis I will use an SLS rocket to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft for a trip across the moon and back to Earth, with a provisional launch date of the end of the year.
“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 main rocket engine testing facility in the United States.