NASA will start hot fire testing Wednesday for the production of new RS-25 engines that will power future Artemis missions to the Moon, and eventually Mars. Photo courtesy of NASA/SSC
Dec. 13 (UPI) -- NASA will start hot fire testing for the production of new RS-25 engines that will power future Artemis missions to the Moon, and eventually Mars.
The initial single-engine hot fire test Wednesday, at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis in Mississippi, will run for 500 seconds starting at 2 p.m. CST.
"It is exciting to return to hot fire testing at the historic Fred Haise Test Stand and get back to the business of testing for future Artemis missions," said NASA Stennis RS-25 project manager Chip Ellis.
The first hot fire, also called a confidence test, will determine whether NASA is ready to move forward with a series of certification tests next year for the full RS-25 certification engine that will power the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Certification tests will show how new features on the engine work together to validate the overall engine design for lead SLS engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne as the company prepares to begin production.
Wednesday's test will run up to 111% power level for about eight-and-a-half minutes, which is the length of time the engines must fire during an actual flight. The engine will be throttled down to 80% before boosting back to 111% and slowing down again to conclude testing.
"We're looking forward to this upcoming hot fire test to verify our design but also to ensure we have the most robust engine possible," said Andy Ketchum, Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 test and flight operations manager. "The December 14 engine test is focused on evaluating how components like the new powerhead, low-pressure oxidizer and fuel turbopumps perform together before we add the new nozzle and controller into the mix."
The RS-25 engine will help power the SLS rocket in future Artemis missions, to the Moon and eventually Mars, starting with Artemis V.
Four RS-25 engines, with the help of solid rocket boosters, will help power the rocket at liftoff for each SLS flight. Sixteen of the engines remaining from the Space Shuttle Program were used on the recent Artemis 1 mission and will be used through Artemis IV.
The Artemis 1 mission, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16, set the stage for astronauts to return to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972, which will happen sometime in 2025 or 2026 as part of the Artemis 3 mission.
Next year, astronauts will be aboard the Artemis 2 capsule, which will circle the Earth and moon as part of the mission's first manned test flight.
Artemis 1, which was not manned, splashed down into the Pacific Ocean off Mexico's Baja California on Sunday after a trip around the moon.
The Orion capsule traveled 1.4 million miles through space, orbited the moon for about a week and collected data during its 26-day mission. Orion also surpassed the record for distance traveled by a spacecraft designed to carry humans, previously set during Apollo 13.
NASA's Orion Capsule splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico's Baja California during recovery operations on its return to Earth on the Artemis I mission on December 11, 2022. Photo by Mario Tama/UPI | License Photo