Crews bring RS-25 developmental engine E0525 to the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center on Aug. 30 for the upcoming certification test series. The first test of the 12-test series is Thursday, Oct. 5 at NASA Stennis.Photo by Danny Nowlin/NASA
Oct. 3 (UPI) -- NASA will begin the critical testing of updated engines for its Space Launch System rocket on Thursday, starting with turning power levels up to 111%, as the space agency prepares for future Artemis missions to the Moon.
The assessments mark the final round of certification testing ahead of production of the RS-25 engines for the SLS rocket, NASA said in a statement. The engines are expected to power NASA missions starting with Artemis V.
"The tests are a key step for lead SLS engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, to produce engines that will help power the SLS rocket, beginning with Artemis V," NASA said in the news release.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is the latest iteration of Rocketdyne, a company founded by North American Aviation that has passed hands and been a part of other companies from Boeing to Pratt & Whitney.
The RS-25 engine has roots as far back as the 1960s, with development by a previous iteration of Rocketdyne taking shape in the 1970s and the first flight utilizing the engines lifting off in April 1981.
It is an engine developed from the successful J-2 engine used on the second stage of the Saturn V rocket (S-II) during the Apollo program. The Fred Haise Test Stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was designed to test-fire the S-II.
However, the engine features a second set of new key components "including a nozzle, hydraulic actuators, flex ducts and turbopumps."
NASA expects to conduct 12 tests of the engines over the next several months into 2024 on the Fred Haise Test Stand to certify the engine design before their use in the Artemis program. It takes four RS-25 engines, along with a pair of solid rocket boosters, to power NASA's SLS rocket.
"NASA and our industry partners continue to make steady progress toward restarting production of the RS-25 engines for the first time since the space shuttle era as we prepare for our more ambitious missions to deep space under Artemis with the SLS rocket," said Johnny Heflin, liquid engines manager for SLS at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
"The upcoming fall test series builds off previous hot fire testing already conducted at NASA Stennis to help certify a new design that will make this storied spaceflight engine even more powerful."
At the end of the testing cycle, 24 new RS-25 engines are expected to be produced.