Washington: As part of its ambitious Space Launch System (SLS), the US space agency has successfully tested an engine that will help propel astronauts on future deep-space missions, including Mars.
The 535-second test of RS-25 rocket engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, was aimed to collect engine performance data, the US space agency said in a statement.
An initial 77-tonne SLS configuration will use four RS-25 engines for the core stage, along with two five-segment solid rocket boosters, providing more lift to orbit than any current launch vehicle.
One final test of this RS-25 developmental engine is left and testing of flight engines will begin later this fall.
The core stage for the first SLS and Orion integrated flight will also be tested at Stennis.
That test will involve simultaneous firing of the four RS-25 engines just as during an actual launch.
Powered by four RS-25 engines, the SLS will send the Orion spacecraft into deep space missions.
“The RS-25 engine gives SLS a proven, high performance, affordable main propulsion system for deep space exploration,” NASA said.
It is one of the most experienced large rocket engines in the world, with more than a million seconds of ground test and flight operations time.
When completed, SLS will enable astronauts to begin their journey to explore destinations far into the solar system.
During the joint Senate-NASA presentation in September 2011, it was stated that the SLS programme has a projected development cost of $18 billion through 2017.
It will be divided into $10 billion for the SLS rocket, $6 billion for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2 billion for upgrades to the launch pad and other facilities at the Kennedy Space Center.