Nasa’s space exploration missile built by Boeing, room The Launch System (SLS) will fire its gigantic core phase for the first time on Saturday. This is a critical test of a long-belated US government project that is facing increasing pressure from emerging private sector technologies.
The SLS hot fire test, which is expected to begin Saturday at 5 p.m. CST at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, will conclude a nearly year-long “Green Run” test campaign to validate the rocket design.
It’s seen as a critical step ahead of an initial unmanned launch later this year as part of NASA’s Artemis program, a push by the Trump administration to get humans back on the moon by 2024.
During the Saturday test, the rocket’s four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines are fired for approximately eight minutes, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust, and consuming 700,000 gallons of propellant on a test bench to simulate internal take-off conditions.
“This is a test that is only done once in a generation,” Jim Maser, senior vice president of space at Aerojet Rocketdyne, told Reuters. “This is the first time four RS-25s are firing at the same time.”
Super-heavy-lift consumable SLS is three years behind schedule and nearly $ 3 billion over budget. Critics have long argued for it NASA Moving from core shuttle-era missile technologies, which cost $ 1 billion or more to launch per mission, to commercial alternatives that promise lower costs.
Flying the less powerful Falcon Heavy from Elon Musk’s SpaceX costs just $ 90 million, and around $ 350 million per launch for the United Launch Alliance’s Legacy Delta IV Heavy.
While newer and more reusable rockets from both companies – SpaceX’s Starship and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan – promise heavier lift than the Falcon Heavy or Delta IV Heavy, possibly at a lower cost, SLS supporters argue that two or more launches of such rockets would be required in order to what to start SLS could carry in a mission.
Reuters reported in October that Joe Biden’s space advisors intend to delay Trump’s lunar target for 2024, raising new doubts about SLS’s long-term fate as SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin scramble to bring heavy-lift capacity to market.
Nasa and Boeing engineers kept to a 10-month schedule for the Green Run, “despite significant difficulties this year”. Boeing SLS manager John Shannon told reporters this week.
Shannon cited five tropical storms and one hurricane that swept over Stennis, as well as a three-month shutdown after some engineers tested positive for the coronavirus in March.