Published: Sun, January 17, 2021
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NASA engine test taking place at Stennis Space Center Saturday

NASA engine test taking place at Stennis Space Center Saturday

The four main engines of Nasa's new "megarocket" are to be fired in unison for the first time, demonstrating the launcher's raw, explosive power.

Artemis III will see the first woman and the next man to walk on the Moon.

Saturday's firing was the last milestone in the "Green Run" series of testing, which has eight phases.

It will help Nasa certify the rocket for its maiden flight, scheduled to take place later this year. This is much shorter than the initial eight minute time frame.

The event took place at the Stennis Launch Center near St. Louis, Mississippi, and was live-streamed via NASA Live.

"We did get an MCF on engine four", a control room member said less than a minute into the test fire, using an initialism that stands for "major component malfunction".

There's no timeline on potentially running the test again, but SpaceNews reports that it would likely take at least another week to run a new test, should NASA decide to do so.

The eight-step process for validating the SLS Core Stage. For hot fire tests aboard the B-2 Test Stand, however, the RS-25 engines will peak at 725,750 kg (1.6 million lbs) or 7,117 kN of thrust, which is the maximum amount of thrust they will generate at sea level (on the launch pad).

He praised teams for keeping the Green Run on track despite the pandemic and disruption from tropical weather.

A briefing from NASA about the test was expected to occur later Saturday night. Upon reaching its destination, it will then be integrated with the other parts of the SLS: the boosters and the upper stage. Engineers have begun stacking the individual SRB segments at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ahead of the launcher's first flight at the end of 2021. NASA's SLS programme manager John Honeycutt, cautioning the data review from the test is ongoing, told reporters the turnaround time for another hot fire test could be roughly one month.

Before the hotfire, engineers will fill the core stage with more than 700,000 gallons (3.2 million litres) of propellant.

"We fire down into a bucket that has a lot of water going into it".

This is done to protect the core stage from vibrations while it is anchored to the stand. This test mission will verify the health of spacecraft, missiles, and ground systems of future manned missions.

As part of the Orion production and operation contract, NASA has contracted to build three Lockheed Martin Orion spacecraft for the Artemis III-V missions, with plans to order three additional Orion spacecraft for Artemis VI-VIII missions and options for up to 12 missions. If all goes well, the SLS will also launch astronauts to the Moon for the first human landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Mounted in a test facility at NASA's Stennis Space Centre in MS, the Space Launch System's almost 65 metre tall core stage roared to life for just over a minute - well short of the roughly four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the rocket's first launch in November this year.

A full duration burn, however, will allow experts to observe the engine cut-off, which occurs after nearly all the propellant has drained from the run lines.

NASA planned on sending the Space Launch System's core to the Kennedy Space Center in February to combine with the Orion spacecraft, but that is now in doubt. Combined, all four launched a total of 25 shuttle missions including the last flight - STS-135 - in July 2011.

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