Nasa to test ‘most powerful rocket ever built’ next week – and it can reach speeds of 17,500mph
THE world’s most powerful rocket is all set to undergo a crucial “hot fire” test next week.
The Space Launch System, which Nasa hopes will one day take astronauts to Mars, will blast its four powerful engines while bolted to the ground.
It’s one of the final hurdles to jump before Nasa can send the spaceship on its first unmanned test flight, which is targeted for later this year.
The Space Launch System (SLS) will form the backbone of Nasa’s Artemis programme, which promises to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024.
Using the 320ft-tall (97m) rocket, the space agency hopes to set up a permanent orbiting lunar base by 2030.
Having already completed a number of key “static” engine tests last year, the booster’s next trial is now scheduled for January 17.
Nasa’s enormous Space Launch System rocket is due for an unmanned test flight next week[/caption]
The Space Launch System core stage with its four SN-25 engines on show[/caption]
According to Spaceflight Now, engineers were finally able to set a date after confirming they were satisfied with the results of a fuelling test last month.
Nasa will carry out the “hot fire” at the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
The space agency described the impending test in a press release last year.
“The test replicates the launch by loading the propellants and allowing them to flow throughout the system as the four RS-25 engines fire simultaneously,” Nasa said.
The huge rocket completed a number of key ‘static’ engine tests last year[/caption]
It added that the test will “demonstrate that the engines, tanks, fuel lines, valves, pressurization system, and software can all perform together just as they will on launch day.”
Once completed, the SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world.
Under its 25 core stage engines, the spaceship will reach a record-breaking speed of Mach 23 before separating from its crew capsule.
Mach 23 is equivalent to around 17,647.2 miles per hour.
Engineers work inside the SLS core stage[/caption]
Once Nasa has conduced its unmanned SLS test, the space agency hopes to fly again with crew on board just a year later.
Then it will train its sites on Artemis. The aim of the ambitious mission is to land on the lunar south pole and mine pockets of water ice there.
The frozen ponds were discovered back in 2009 and could potentially be used for life support purposes or even to make rocket propellant.
If this rocket propellant theory is correct then trips to the Moon could become much more efficient.
The 2024 Moon mission is intended to lay the groundwork for an onward mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Nasa’s Artemis lunar mission – key facts
Nasa’s Artemis lunar mission – key facts
- Nasa has pledged to land man on the Moon in 2024
- The mission, dubbed Artemis, will mark the first time astronauts have set foot on the lunar surface since 1972
- A giant Nasa rocket dubbed the Space Launch System will carry astronauts beyond Earth’s atmosphere
- Once at the Moon, two astronauts will descend to the surface from an orbiting craft called the Lunar Gateway
- Nasa has pledged that one of the landing crewa will be female, marking the first time a woman has set foot on the Moon
- The pair would land on the lunar south pole, where vast reserves of frozen water could be tapped for future explorers
- The landing system that brought the astronauts to the surface will then blast back to the orbiting Gateway satellite
- They will board an Orion capsule for the 250,000-mile trip back to Earth
- Nasa has a mountain of technical challenges to overcome before Artemis gets the green light
- It’s still not clear if everything will be ready in time for the ambitious 2024 launch date
- Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine has said the Moon will serve as a critical training ground for Mars expeditions, perhaps in the 2030s
Most read in Science
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