JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — It may have lasted only about nine minutes and didn't launch anything into space, but Thursday's tests of the RS-25 engine put NASA one step closer to Mars.
The 535-second test fire of the Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engine happened at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It is hoped the test fire will provide vital engine performance data as NASA moves forward on developing a heavy lift rocket system for manned missions to deep space.
The RS-25 engine will be part of the Space Launch System (SLS), which is a heavy lift rocket system that will have a lift capacity of about 143 tons. That makes it the most power launch system ever.
Plans call for four RS-25 engines to be installed on the core section of the SLS. That along with two solid rocket boosters will comprise the system that will launch manned Orion capsules to space for eventual Mars missions.
The core stage of the SLS is being built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility outside of New Orleans.
Up next is a test fire of the core stage of the SLS. That will also take place at Stennis and will include the simultaneous test fire of all four RS-25 engines later this fall.
NASA is testing the RS-25 to adapt it to the new SLS performance requirements and operating environments such as more thrust, higher propellant inlet pressures and lower temperatures, and qualify an all-new engine controller.