PROMONTORY, Utah, June 28 (UPI) -- A rocket booster for NASA's Space Launch System passed a key test on Tuesday, pushing the U.S. space agency a small step closer to Mars.
NASA intends to use the rocket as part of deep space missions, especially the first manned trip to Mars in the 2030s.
The test, at Orbital ATK's facility in Promontory, Utah, was the last full-scale hurdle for the rocket booster before an un-manned test flight on NASA's Orion spacecraft in 2018.
"Seeing this test today, and experiencing the sound and feel of approximately 3.6 million pounds of thrust, helps us appreciate the progress we're making to advance human exploration and open new frontiers for science and technology missions in deep space," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA in a statement.
Engineers will pour through an extensive data stream to be certain that all equipment performed exactly right to ensure the success of the Space Launch System, a rocket more powerful than the Saturn V rockets that carried NASA astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s.