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NASA fires up engine to take astronauts to Mars

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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.

Photo Credit: www.ubergizmo.com
Photo Credit: www.ubergizmo.com

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.

(IANS)

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Rocket Lab is Set To Launch 10 NASA CubeSats

They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space

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Kepler, NASA, tissue
Rocket Lab to launch 10 NASA CubeSats on Sunday. Pixabay

In its first mission for NASA, the American aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab is set to launch 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, from New Zealand, the US space agency said.

Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch on December 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

The CubeSats were built by three NASA centres, seven universities, and a middle school under the NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or (ELaNa-19) mission.

ElaNa-19 is NASA’s first to be completely dedicated to launching CubeSats under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program for small-satellite launches.

More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12. Flickr

“The major difference between today’s launch and previous #ELaNa missions is that for the first time, NASA will have a launch completely dedicated to CubeSats rather than having the small satellites ride along with a much larger spacecraft that is the primary mission,” NASA Launch Services Program officials wrote on Twitter on December 12.

The 10 CubeSats are named as CubeSail, CeREs, NMTSat, CHOMPTT, ALBus, STF-1, ISX, RSat, Shields-1 and DaVinci, NASA said.

These are built to standard dimensions of one unit (1U), and can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size. They generally weigh less than 1.33 kg per U — 6U may be up to 12 kg.

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They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space.

After the main payload deploys, the CubeSats will separate from their RailPODs. After 45 minutes in orbit, the CubeSat transmitters will turn on and university ground stations will listen for their beacons, determine their small satellites’ functionality and announce operational status.

CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary but are anticipated to last at least three years. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere, NASA noted. (IANS)