NASA's Boeing moon rocket set for 'once-in-a-generation' ground test

NASA's Space Launch System during the test on Saturday

NASA's Space Launch System during the test on Saturday

NASA's Space Launch System rocket ignited its four main engines Saturday on a test stand in MS, but the space agency prematurely ended the test.

Mounted in a test facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center in MS, the Space Launch System's (SLS) 212-foot tall core stage roared to life at 4:27 pm local time (2227 GMT) 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.

The engine test, the last leg of NASA's almost year-long "Green Run" test campaign, was a vital step for the space agency and its top SLS contractor Boeing before a debut unmanned launch later this year under NASA's Artemis programme, the Trump administration's push to return USA astronauts to the moon by 2024.

The SLS was supposed to light its engines for about eight minutes, the length of time the engines will have to fire to propel the rocket on its orbital missions.

When it completes that flight, the SLS will become the most powerful rocket ever to have flown to space.

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In a blog on NASA's website, the agency said, 'All four RS-25 engines ignited successfully, but the test was stopped early after about a minute. It hosts five mains sections, including a 537,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank for liquid hydrogen, a 196,000-gallon (742,000-liter) tank for liquid oxygen, four RS-25 engines, avionics computers, and other subsystems.

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

Once at KSC, the 212-foot-tall core stage will be stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building with the rest of the SLS components including the external boosters and Orion capsule already on site. Two of the solid-fuel boosters will strap to the core stage and provide about 75% of the force required to heave SLS off its launch pad and toward space during the first two minutes of flight.

Once the hotfire test is complete, technicians will refurbish the core stage, remove it from the test stand and prepare it for transport to Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA's SLS program manager John Honeycutt, told reporters the turnaround time for another hot fire test could be roughly one month. The goal of the mission is to certify the spacecraft, ground systems, and rocket for human spaceflight, clearing the way for the crewed circumlunar Artemis II mission. Live coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency's website, followed by a post-test briefing approximately two hours after the test concludes.

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