In the final test before the core stage heads down to Kennedy Space Center for launch, NASA is preparing to fire up four powerful engines this weekend on its rocket designed to return humans to the moon in the next few years.
The Space Launch System is NASA’s mega rocket designed to launch astronauts to the moon in the Orion spacecraft and, eventually, on to Mars. It’s the rocket of the Artemis program and is slated to liftoff later this year on its first test flight orbiting the moon sans crew known as Artemis-1.
The test happening Saturday is known as a “Green Run” test. During the event, engineers will fire up the rocket engines on the rocket’s core stage. This is the eighth and, hopefully, final test in the “Green Run” test series needed to prepare the rocket for launch and really put the pedal to the metal testing its power and capabilities.
The SLS core stage booster contains the liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank, along with four RS-25 engines as well as the computers that serve as the “brains” of the rocket.
View the video below to see the core stage on the test stand during the wet dress rehearsal in December.
According to NASA, ahead of the test, engineers will power up all the core stage systems, load more than 700,000 gallons of super cold fuel into the tanks and fire all four engines at the same time, just like what will happen when it launches. If all goes well, the engines should produce 1.6 million pounds of thrust for about eight minutes.
Following a successful test, the core stage will be brought down to Kennedy Space Center, where it will be stacked with the rest of the SLS rocket. The solid rocket boosters were being stacked inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC Thursday and the Orion spacecraft is also already at KSC awaiting its ride to the moon.
The big takeaway: NASA is still targeting late this year to launch the SLS and the Orion spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39B on its first test flight known as Artemis-1. If the final “Green Run” test goes well, it will complete an important milestone toward launch.
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