NASA just completed a full-duration hot fire test of an improved RS-25 rocket engine. The Space Launch System (SLS) rockets used in the Artemis program will be propelled by this engine. In November 2022, the Orion spacecraft was launched by Artemis for the first time, entering lunar orbit. The agency is currently getting ready for upcoming launches. Crew members will be transported by these launches to lunar orbit and subsequently back.
After attempting a full-duration run in the middle of December of last year, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne conducted today’s test. The Space Shuttle’s RS-25 engine made its debut flight in 1981, so it has been in use for a while. However, NASA has made various changes to it over the years, and it has been preserved since the conclusion of the Shuttle program. The RS-25E engine is being put to the test. It was created in accordance with the specifications for the SLS rocket and is a reduced version of the initial design.
Since the spaceship could land after each flight, the previous engines employed by the Shuttle had to be reused. The SLS rocket, which is not recyclable, will now be propelled by the new engines. Consequently, a less expensive engine allows NASA to save money because the four engines that power the rocket are inefficient once it has launched.
The powerhead, nozzle, and controllers of this upgraded engine are just a few of the new parts. In its manufacturing process, Aerojet incorporates cutting-edge innovations like 3D printing. The new engine was put through its tests for the first time during the test, which took place at the same time as when it will turn on for its SLS rocket mission.
An engine monitoring system stopped NASA’s test run in December at the 209.5-second point. The evaluation is one of several certification tests to confirm that the engine can carry people to the Moon. In a full-duration test, the RS-25 engine produces a massive 418,000 pounds of thrust while firing continuously for 500 seconds. In terms of human-rated liquid rocket engines, the RS-25 is the most powerful one in the United States.
Its specific impulse of 452 seconds makes it one of the most efficient engines in operation. The engine also holds the distinction of being the world’s most efficient first-stage liquid rocket engine.
The site of the test held today was the Fred Haise Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. The engine’s test produced clouds of steam that dwarfed even this enormous facility, which was formerly identified as the A-1 test stand and stands 200 feet tall. The RS-25 engine’s exhaust can reach temperatures of more than 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA. As a result, water is flown underneath the engine to cool things off, creating enormous steam clouds in the process.
Along with testing the engines, NASA is also expanding its facilities at the Florida-based Kennedy Space Center and producing the following three Artemis rockets at Michoud simultaneously. With tests like this one going well, NASA will soon be able to send people to the Moon and other planets.