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NASA Completes Engine Testing for SLS


By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, August 27 the RS-25 engine fired up for a 535-second test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This was the final in a series of seven tests for the development engine, which will provide NASA engineers critical data on the engine controller unit and inlet pressure conditions.

The RS-25 engines will power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on missions deeper into space than ever before.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville manages the SLS Program for NASA.  Marshall’s Steve Wofford said in a statement, “The completion of this test series is an important step in getting SLS ready for the journey to Mars.  The RS-25 engine gives SLS a proven, high performance, affordable main propulsion system. 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.”

The RS-25 engine, is a former space shuttle main engine operating at higher thrust levels in order to provide the power needed for the SLS vehicle.  Data from the test will aid in development of a new engine controller, or “brain,” to monitor engine status and communicate programmed performance needs.

Wofford said, “These are extremely reliable engines. We are testing them again because we want to ensure that the engine performs as required with a new engine controller, higher propellant inlet pressures and lower temperatures that are part of the SLS design. We also want to mitigate any risks on the ground before flight.”

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The SLS will use four RS-25 engines and will  operate in conjunction with a pair of five-segment solid rocket boosters for a total of 8.4 million pounds of thrust to lift the initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) SLS off the launch pad. Eventually a 130-metric-ton (143-ton) configuration will be built to enable deep space missions to asteroids and potentially Mars.

There will be more RS-25 flight engine testing at Stennis this fall.

Center Director Rick Gilbrech said, “What a great time to be at Stennis.  When it comes to powering the future of the deep space exploration program for this country, this is the front lines, where we enable those missions to fly.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, is the prime contractor for the RS-25 engine work.

The RS-25 project manager at Stennis, Ronnie Rigney said, “This was a great test series for Stennis.  Our teams built up a lot of history with space shuttle main engines and were able to use that expertise to meet very challenging test specifications for the RS-25. The testing done here will help ensure the engines perform as needed during actual SLS missions.”

Just a year ago, on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 the Space Launch System (SLS) passed a formal review by NASA officials and the program’s progression from formulation to development.  The SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep space missions.  NASA plans to use the SLS to launch a craft to distant objects, to including an asteroid and ultimately the planet Mars.  Much of the engineering, design, and testing work for the SLS is being done in Huntsville at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Since building the space shuttle in the 1970s and early 80s, NASA has started and then stopped other space exploration class vehicles.  This is the first project to get this far in the process since the agency built the space shuttle.

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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said last year, “We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars, and we’re firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting systems that will take us on that journey.”

The SLS will give NASA unsurpassed heavy-lift capability and unrivaled payload volume.  This capability will allow NASA to take heavier loads into higher earth orbits than the space shuttle could ever go and is essential to human missions to explore asteroids and Mars.

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R from Alabama) said then, “It’s sort of, in my mind, confirmation of the Space Launch System program that is going to lead us into exploration of the solar system.”

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Patrick Scheuermann Director Scheuermann said, “The Space Launch System is going to be an incredible capability for the united states, it will get our astronauts farther than we’ve ever been, ever.”

Rep. Brooks said, “The heavy-lift capability that we will potentially have once this is up and rolling is just a tremendous advantage for our country vis-à-vis all of our international competitors.  And remarkably, for any kind of federal government program, SLS is five months ahead of schedule, on budget, and recently passed the Critical Design Review—all unprecedented feats for a program of this size, so thank you for what you are doing.”

The SLS is designed to be flexible and evolvable to meet a variety of crew and cargo mission needs.

For more information about SLS, visit:

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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