NASA has completed its rocket engine test series for its upcoming missions to the Moon and Mars.
The US space agency conducted RS-25 single-engine Retrofit-2 test series at Stennis Space Center near Bay St Louis in Mississippi on September 30, the agency said in a statement.
“This successful test series for the Space Launch System RS-25 engine puts us one step closer to manufacturing the first new set of engines for future Artemis missions to the Moon,” said Johnny Heflin, manager of the SLS liquid engines office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in the statement.
“We are testing engine parts made with advanced manufacturing techniques that can reduce the cost of each engine by more than 30 per cent yet still maintain the RS-25 engine’s reliability and high performance,” Heflin added.
During the test, hot fire, operators fired RS-25 developmental engine No. 0528, used for each of the seven tests in the series, for more than eight minutes (500 seconds), the same time required during an actual launch.
The test series provided valuable information to Aerojet Rocketdyne – a lead contractor for the SLS engines – as it produces engines for use after the Artemis IV mission to the Moon, NASA said.
Operators collected hot fire data to demonstrate and verify various engine capabilities and to evaluate new engine components manufactured with cutting-edge and cost-saving technologies and reduce operational risk.
The test was initially delayed due to impacts from Hurricane Ida, which struck the Gulf Coast region on August 29.
NASA is building SLS as the world’s most powerful rocket. Four RS-25 engines and a pair of solid rocket boosters will help power SLS at launch. Firing simultaneously, the engines will generate a combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and 2 million pounds during ascent.
With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration at the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars.
SLS and the Orion spacecraft, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. The agency is working towards the launch of the Artemis I uncrewed flight test in the upcoming months, which will pave the way for future missions.