The most powerful rocket ever built will soon start to “roar”

NASA plans to conduct a hot-fire test of the central stage of the SLS – its super-heavy launcher tasked with sending crews to the moon – on January 17. During this test, the four main motors of the booster will burn for approximately eight minutes.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a launcher developed by NASA since 2011 for the purpose of propelling humans to the moon. With its 98 meters high, it will be slightly shorter than the 110-meter-high Saturn V rockets deployed to send astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s. However, this new launcher is much more powerful, producing 15% more thrust during takeoff and climb.

Its first flight is normally scheduled for next November. During this eagerly awaited mission – called Artemis I – the rocket will be tasked with releasing an unmanned Orion capsule into space. It will then circle the Moon before returning to Earth.

That being said, NASA and Boeing (the prime contractor) have been testing the booster of this rocket (64 meters high) for several months as part of the “Green Run” program in Mississippi. These tests (eight in total) are crescendo, so as to ensure that everything is ready for the month of November.

A last test which promises to be very impressive

A few days ago, the engineers performed a “wet dress rehearsal” test, the seventh in his program. During this, the thrusters were filled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen cooled to ultra-low temperatures. The engineers then checked the phase of filling the fuel, then the thrusters were successfully drained.

“In our wet dress rehearsal test, the main stage, the stage controller and the Green Run software all performed perfectly. There were no leaks when the tanks were fully charged and filled for about two hours ”, assures Julie Bassler, launcher manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (Alabama). “The data from all tests to date has given us the confidence to move forward ”.

The first stage of the SLS launcher intended for the launch of the Artemis I mission leaves the Michoud factory. Credit: Danny Nowlin

NASA can now consider its eighth and final test, in which the four RS-25 engines of the SLS (modernized versions of the SSME engines of the US Space Shuttle) will be ignited for more than eight minutes, so as to simulate the performance of the booster during the upcoming launch. This should take place on January 17th, just communicated The NASA. When these motors fire, the SLS will then become the most powerful “wick” ever lit on Earth.

Once this test has been completed, the main stage of the SLS will be refurbished and shipped to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will then be assembled with the other parts of the rocket, then the Orion spaceship will be capped on it while waiting for the Artemis I mission.

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