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NASA tests limits of updated engines for future Artemis missions
NASA tests limits of updated engines for future Artemis missions
by Sheri Walsh
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 6, 2024

NASA completed a full-duration RS-25 engine hot fire Wednesday, as the space agency continues testing the updated engines that will launch Artemis missions to the moon and beyond.

The full-duration test was the ninth of 12 scheduled tests, and took place on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis in Mississippi.

The certification engine, which will help power the Space Launch System, produced a large plume of smoke Wednesday as operators fired it for 10 full minutes, much longer than will be needed to launch the SLS rocket and send astronauts aboard the Orion into orbit. The engine was also fired at power levels between 80% and 113% to test its limits.

It will take four RS-25 engines and a couple of solid rocket boosters, producing more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, to launch the SLS rocket for the Artemis missions.

The RS-25 engine dates back to the 1960s, with a previous iteration of Rocketdyne from the 1970s. NASA's first space shuttle flight used RS-25 engines to launch in April 1981.

NASA began critical testing of its updated SLS engines last October. The new engines are expected to power NASA missions starting with Artemis V.

"NASA and our industry partners continue to make steady progress toward restarting production of the RS-25 engines for the first time since the space shuttle era as we prepare for our more ambitious missions to deep space under Artemis with the SLS rocket," Johnny Heflin, liquid engines manager for SLS at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, said before last year's first test.

The "test series builds off previous hot fire testing already conducted at NASA Stennis to help certify a new design that will make this storied spaceflight engine even more powerful."

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