NASA’s Boeing-built deep space exploration rocket briefly fired all four engines of its behemoth central stadium for the first time on Saturday, disrupting a crucial test to advance a years-delayed U.S. government program to bring back humans on the moon in the next few years. Mounted in a test facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the 212-foot-tall central stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) came to life at 16:27 local time (2227 GMT) for just over a minute, well under the roughly four minutes it would take for engineers to stay on track for the first rocket launch in November this year.
The engine test, the last leg of NASA’s nearly year-long “Green Run” test campaign, was a critical step for the space agency and its main contractor SLS Boeing ahead of a debut unmanned launch at the end of the year under NASA’s Artemis program, the Trump administration pushed to bring US astronauts back to the moon by 2024. It was unclear whether Boeing and NASA would have to retest, a prospect that could push the launch debut in 2022.
To simulate the internal conditions of a real takeoff, the rocket’s four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines ignited for about a minute and 15 seconds, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust and consuming 700,000 gallons of propellant on the largest bank. NASA test site, an imposing structure that towers 35 stories high. The super-heavy consumable SLS is three years behind schedule and nearly $ 3 billion over budget. Critics have long argued that NASA was withdrawing core technologies from the rocket shuttle era, which have launch costs of $ 1 billion or more per mission, in favor of new commercial announcements. alternatives which promise lower costs.
By comparison, it costs just $ 90 million to fly Elon Musk’s massive but less powerful Falcon Heavy rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX, and around $ 350 million per launch for United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy legacy. Although newer, more reusable rockets from both companies – SpaceX’s spacecraft and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan – promise greater lifting capacity than the Falcon Heavy or Delta IV Heavy potentially at a lower cost, SLS advocates argue it would take two or more launches on those rockets to launch what the SLS could carry in a single mission.
Reuters reported in October that President-elect Joe Biden’s space advisors aim to delay Trump’s 2024 target, casting new doubts on the long-term fate of SLS just as SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin scramble to bring on market the new rival heavy lifting capacity. NASA and Boeing engineers remained on a ten-month schedule for Green Run “despite having had considerable hardship this year,” Boeing SLS manager John Shannon told reporters this week, citing five tropical storms and one. hurricane that hit Stennis, as well as a three-month shutdown after engineers tested positive for the coronavirus in March.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)
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