NASA continues to push the American space program towards its former glory as on Thursday it conducted a successful 450 second test of the new RS-25 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi.
The "hotfire test" fittingly took place on the historic A-1 test stand, where Apollo program rocket stages and Space Shuttle program main engines were also tested. The engines tested on Thursday will power the core stage of NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System, which is being developed to carry humans on deep space missions, likely to Mars.
The heavy-lift SLS will be the most powerful rocket rocket currently available and will carry the nation's next era of space exploration. The current plan is to first carry humans to an asteroid and then eventually to Mars.
The SLS vehicle will use four RS-25 engines at launch, firing simultaneously to produce more than 1.6 million pounds of thrust. RS-25 engines are based on the Space Shuttle main engines, which powered 135 low-Earth-orbit missions.
Thursday's test of the engines was looking at the engine controller or brain of the engines. The RS-25 will automatically runs through its cycles and programs and it's essential that the controller communicates properly with the engine.
Because the SLS will be a bigger rocket and fly new types of missions its engines will have to perform in new ways.
Testing at Stennis will ensure the new controller and engine are in sync and able to deliver the required performance to meet the SLS' strict requirements.
NASA engineers conducted the first RS-25 engine test on Jan. 9th. After that, testing was put on hold for scheduled maintenance on the A-1 stand's high-pressure industrial water system, which provides the tens of thousands of gallons of water needed to cool the test facility during an engine test.
RS-25 testing will now continue throughout the summer and pave the way for America to start exploring space again with humans.