As part of a critical test ahead of the giant rocket’s first launch, the agency plans to ignite four main engines on its heavy-lift booster on January 16. The test, designed to simulate the operation of the main stage during launch, will take place at the Stennis Agency Space Center in Mississippi.
Today’s engine test marks the final stage in a series of tests from Green Run to ensure the SLS rocket is ready for its first launch, called Artemis 1, which will send the Orion unmanned spacecraft around the moon. The first flight is scheduled for the end of this year.
The SLS is NASA’s next-generation super-heavy rocket that will ferry astronauts to the moon as part of the Artemis lunar program. Launched by the end of this year, Artemis 1 will be the first in a series of missions that culminate in NASA’s first manned moon landing since Apollo. This mission, called Artemis 3, could happen as early as 2024 if all goes according to plan.
To this end, NASA is testing the four RS-25 engines of the massive SLS rocket prior to launch. The agency systematically tests each engine and conducts start-day procedures such as refueling to ensure that all systems are working properly.
The upcoming fuel engine test is the final step in the testing process. On Saturday, engineers will load over 700,000 gallons of supercooled fuel into the SLS booster before firing all four RS-25 engines simultaneously. This will be the first time that four RS-25 engines will operate simultaneously. The same engines powered the space shuttle, but the orbiter needed only three to fly.