NASA fired up the core stage of its massive new rocket — the Space Launch System (SLS) — on Saturday (Jan. 16) in a critical test that ended prematurely when the booster’s engines shut down earlier than planned.
Smoke and flames billowed from the four RS-25 engines that power the behemoth rocket’s core booster, a centerpiece of NASA’s Artemis moon program, as it roared to life atop a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Ignition occurred at 5:27 EST (2227 GMT), with 700,000 gallons (2.6 million liters) of cryogenic fuel flowing through the engines as they roared for just over 1 minute, much shorter than planned.
The test was supposed to run for 485 seconds (or just over 8 minutes), which is the amount of time the engines will burn during flight. Following engine ignition, the four RS-25 engines fired for just over 60 seconds, NASA said.
“Not everything went according to script today,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said late Saturday after the test. “But we got a lot of great data, a lot of great information.”
The SLS core booster will help launch NASA’s Artemis 1 mission to the moon.