NASA Tests New Rocket Engine for Future Mars Mission

March 23rd was the day when NASA test fired the engine controller which is a part of the rocket that the space agency hopes will take humans to Mars. The test was conducted at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the engine will power NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for future deep space missions.

This was the second test of the RS-25 engine in 2017 and NASA has planned more in the near future. NASA says that the SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world which will be powered by these engines.

“Those engines generate about 520,000 pounds of thrust each,” Gary Benton, the product development manager for Stennis Space Center and in charge of the rocket engines, said.

He further adds that the engines need to be this powerful because of the payload the SLS will be carrying during its long journey to Mars. He says it would take the rocket one year to travel to Mars and the space agency hopes to reach in the 2030s.

There will be three additional engine controllers for the first SLS mission and NASA will be testing them all in the future. The plan is to simulate the actual launch conditions and fire all the four engines simultaneously. Together they will be producing 2 million pounds of thrust to power the SLS launch.

The RS-25 engines have been a part of former space shuttles as their main engines and were made by Aerojet Rocketdyne for NASA. They have now been upgraded to operate at a higher level and under different conditions. Its flight controller was among the critical new parts of the engine that helped it work under different conditions.

NASA plans to conduct the simultaneous testing of four engines sometime in 2018 before the planned test launch of the SLS rocket later that year. The space agency is currently studying whether or not to add a human crew to the first test flight for the SLS.