NASA has performed a nearly 9-minute-long test of the engine at the heart of the US space agency’s next-generation megarocket that will take astronauts to asteroids, Mars and other deep-space missions.
The agency successfully tested an RS-25 engine at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Four RS-25s will power the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket that will launch astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on missions to deep space and eventually on the journey to Mars.
The RS-25 blazed on the test stand for 535 seconds – the same amount of time the core engines will fire during an actual SLS launch.
“There are probably some people in the control centre high-fiving, because that was a very successful test,” said Gary Benton, RS-25 test project manager at Stennis, after the test concluded yesterday.
The test was the sixth of seven planned hot-fire trials for the RS-25, which also served as the main engine for NASA’s now-retired space shuttle fleet, ‘Space.com’ reported.
The seven-test series is “designed to put the upgraded former space shuttle main engines through the rigorous temperature and pressure conditions they will experience during a launch,” NASA officials said.
“The tests also support the development of a new controller, or ‘brain,’ for the engine, which monitors engine status and communicates between the vehicle and the engine, relaying commands to the engine and transmitting data back to the vehicle,” the officials added.
“The controller also provides closed-loop management of the engine by regulating the thrust and fuel-mixture ratio while monitoring the engine’s health and status,” they said.
SLS and Orion are scheduled to blast off together for the first time in 2018, on a flight known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1).
The seven-day EM-1 will send an unmanned Orion on a journey around the Moon, to test out many of the capsule’s key systems.