NASA test for ‘most powerful rocket in the world’ has component failure

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NASA conducted a hot fire of the core stage of the Space Launch System, but the stage’s four main engines shut down just over 1 minute into a test designed to last 8 minutes.

The trial was a vital step for NASA’s long-delayed space launch system. The SLS will play a key role in the agency’s Artemis program to return US astronauts to the moon before 2024. 

The core stage ignited its four RS-25 engines at 5:27 pm at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

It was not immediately clear why the engines shut down. At a briefing last week NASA officials and officials from Boeing, the SLS prime contractor, said they needed the static fire test to go at least 250 seconds to collect the data needed.

“If we had an early shutdown for whatever reason, we get all of the engineering data that we need to have high confidence in the vehicle at about 250 seconds,” said John Shannon, vice president and SLS program manager at Boeing, according to Space News.

About 1,400 sensors monitored the core for vibration, temperature, acoustics and stress.

NASA said in a release that the software “acted appropriately” and ended the test. 

 “At this point, the test was fully automated. During the firing, the onboard software acted appropriately and initiated a safe shutdown of the engine,” the statement read.

The SLS originally was set to make its flight debut in 2017, but has been plagued by delays and budget shortfalls. 

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