NASA’s “Megarocket” comes to life – but only briefly, which jeopardizes the launch Science & Tech News
NASA’s space rocket briefly ignited its four engines for the first time.
The test was a pivotal step toward an unmanned debut later this year as part of NASA’s Artemis program, the Trump administration’s mission to bring US astronauts back to the moon by 2024.
The Boeing-built rocket came to life for just a minute and 15 seconds at the test facility in Mississippi.
The engines generated 1.6 million pounds of thrust and consumed 700,000 gallons of propellant while on NASA’s largest test bed, which is 35 stories high.
It was far less than the roughly four minutes it took to keep development on track for its first launch in November.
NASA said, “All four RS-25 engines fired successfully, but the test was prematurely stopped after about a minute.
“At that point the test was completely automated.
“During the fire, the on-board software acted appropriately and initiated a safe shutdown of the engines.
“During the test, the fuel tanks were pressurized and this data will be valuable as the team plans the way forward.
“In the days ahead, engineers will continue to analyze data and inspect the core stage and its four RS-25 engines to determine next steps.”
Although the test was canceled, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was still positive, saying, “Saturday’s test was an important step forward in ensuring that the core stage of the SLS rocket is ready for the Artemis I mission, and to transport the crew on future missions.
“Although the engines didn’t fire all the time, the team successfully completed the countdown, ignited the engines and gathered valuable data to inform our way forward.”
“We have a lot of data to sort through,” he added, talking about whether the November launch is still possible.
If it can’t, it could push the debut in 2022.