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Engineers test Space Launch System rocket booster in Utah

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Engineers test Space Launch System rocket booster in Utah
Engineers executed a two-minute test fire of the Space Launch System rocket's full-scale booster on Wednesday afternoon in Utah. Photo by NASA TV/YouTube

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Engineers successfully performed a test fire of the Space Launch System rocket's full-scale booster on Wednesday afternoon.

Live footage of the test, which took place at Northrop Grumman's facilities in Promontory, Utah, showcased the tremendous force generated by the system's rockets.

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The broadcast showcased a massive trail of fire and exhaust emanating from the base of the rocket and blowing across the desert dunes, scorching the sage brush in its path. The rocket fired for two minutes, with the booster performing nominally.

"To pull [the test] off now, after six months of what we've been through, it feels like a really big milestone," Bruce Tiller, manager of the SLS boosters office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said during a post-test teleconference. "This is feels like another big step in the process of getting the Space Launch System going."

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NASA's heavy-lift Space Launch System is key to the space agency's plans to return astronauts to the moon and ultimately conduct a human mission to Mars, the agency has said.

Engineers at NASA and Boeing have previously conducted a number of test firings in preparation for the Artemis moon landing program.

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Data gathered during Wednesday's test will offer engineers the opportunity to evaluate a variety of new materials, processes and improvements for the boosters that will power longer deep space missions.

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"This flight support booster test is the first motor firing NASA and Northrop Grumman have completed since qualifying the booster design for the Space Launch System rocket," Tiller said in a news release. "Full-scale booster tests are rare, so NASA tries to test multiple objectives at one time so we are highly confident that any changes we make to the boosters will still enable them to perform as expected on launch day."

The Space Launch System is powered by four RS-25 engines and two boosters, a combination capable of generating 8 million pounds of thrust. The two five-segment rocket boosters will be responsible for 75 percent of thrust during the first few minutes of the Space Launch System's ascent.

The SLS rocket is one of several vehicles, in addition to the Orion spacecraft, Gateway and human landing system, that will power NASA's deep space mission.

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"The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration and is part of America's broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, in which astronauts will explore the Moon," according to NASA. "Experience gained there will enable humanity's next giant leap: sending humans to Mars."

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The booster that was fired during Wednesday's test is the same design and size as the boosters that will be stacked to build the rocket that will power NASA's Artemis missions. The boosters that will be used to launch Artemis I are currently being readied at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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