Skip to main content

Watch NASA fire up its SLS rocket engines to test far-out mission technologies (video)

While NASA has yet to launch an Artemis mission to the moon, the agency is already doing engine testing for far-future missions.

NASA finished its sixth RS-25 engine hot-fire test on Thursday (Aug. 5), demonstrating advanced capabilities of an engine type that was used for decades during the space shuttle program that ran from 1981 to 2011. 

Engineers fired the  RS-25 engine, made by the California-based aerospace company Aerojet Rocketdyne, at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for 500 seconds (more than eight minutes) to duplicate the time it will take four engines to boost the first stage of the massive Space Launch System (SLS) aloft.

"NASA already has tested engines for the rocket's first four Artemis missions to the moon, allowing operators to turn their focus towards collecting data to demonstrate and verify various engine capabilities for future engines," NASA said in a statement, adding the test allowed the team to look at new engine components to save cost, reduce operational risk and "enhance engine production."

Video: NASA test-fires SLS rocket engine in Mississippi
Related: NASA's new SLS moon rocket takes shape in giant hangar

NASA conducts a single-engine hot fire test of an RS-25 rocket engine at the agency's Stennis Space Center, on  Aug. 5, 2021. (Image credit: NASA)

The RS-25 test on Thursday also aimed to see how well new manufacturing processes are doing in terms of getting the engines ready for flight, NASA said. 

"NASA verified new manufacturing processes while evaluating the performance of the engine's low-pressure fuel turbopump," the agency said in the same statement. "The pump significantly boosts the pressure of liquid hydrogen delivered to the high-pressure fuel turbopump to help prevent cavitating, the forming of 'bubbles' or 'voids', which can collapse or cause shock waves that may damage machinery."

The uncrewed Artemis 1 mission aboard an SLS — marking the rocket's first space journey — is slated for a round-the-moon trip by the end of 2021. The crewed Artemis II moon-orbiting and Artemis 3 moon-landing missions are planned later in the decade, but when, the Biden administration has not yet confirmed. (NASA previously had set 2024 for the landing.)

Artemis represents NASA's efforts to establish a long-term presence on the moon and to open up exploration to more types of people than during the previous crewed effort in the 1960s and 1970s, called Apollo

The agency has pledged to put the first woman and the first person of color on the moon, following the 12 white men who landed on the surface between 1969 and 1972. International astronauts will also participate, unlike Apollo; an as-yet-unnamed Canadian astronaut is expected to join Artemis 2, for example.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.