NASA kicked off 2024 with a crucial 550-second hot fire test of the RS-25 engines that will help power the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon. The test paves the way for certifying the engines for flight and keeping the Artemis 1 launch on schedule for late 2024.
Lead Up to the Test
The SLS core stage is powered by four RS-25 engines previously used during the Space Shuttle program. Before they can be cleared for the inaugural Artemis 1 launch, the engines must undergo a series of tests to ensure they can perform safely under expected flight conditions.
On January 16, engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi conducted a hot fire test of the RS-25 development engine E2063 on the A-1 Test Stand . This was the first of seven planned tests of RS-25 engines this year in advance of the Artemis 1 mission .
The RS-25 engines were fired up for a full duration of 550 seconds, the same length of time they will need to operate during an actual SLS launch. The test provided valuable data on the performance of new engine components like the pogo accumulator assembly which will dampen potentially damaging vibrations during launch .
|January 16, 2024
|Stennis Space Center, MS
|RS-25 development engine E2063
|Validate engine performance for upcoming Artemis missions
Engine Modifications for SLS
While the RS-25 engines being used for SLS flew during multiple Space Shuttle missions, they have been upgraded with modern components and new controller software to meet the different performance requirements of NASA’s powerful new rocket .
Modifications made to the engines include :
- New engine controllers designed and developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne
- Addition of an meaningful engineering word accumulator to dampen damaging vibrations during launch
- Upgraded and replaceable nozzle components for extended operational life
- Certification for a higher operational temperature to accommodate the higher performance demands of the SLS rocket
“We have made modifications for the new RS-25 engines to perform at a higher level for SLS,” said NASA engineer Ryan McKibben. “This test campaign will validate that the engine upgrades enable reliable and sustained operation during every SLS rocket launch.”
Looking Ahead to Artemis 1
The recent test means RS-25 engine E2063 is one step closer to being certified for the first Artemis launch. After refurbishment, the engine will be shipped to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans where it will be integrated with the other three flight engines onto the SLS core stage .
Meanwhile, the SLS core stage containing different RS-25 engines is already fully assembled and went through its final round of testing at Stennis Space Center last year. NASA aims to ship the entire core stage to the Kennedy Space Center this spring to prepare it for launch .
If all goes according to plan, the first launch of SLS and the uncrewed Artemis 1 test flight could liftoff as early as November 2024. It will pave the way for crewed flights around the Moon with Artemis 2 in 2025 and the much-anticipated Artemis 3 lunar landing mission in 2026 .
January’s successful 550-second RS-25 hot fire test marked an important milestone for readying the engines that will launch the Artemis generation into the next era of human lunar exploration. Critical engine validation tests will continue over the next several months to ensure mission success.
With the first SLS rocket now fully stacked and the RS-25 engines nearing readiness, NASA is poised for an historic year ahead spearheading humanity’s return to deep space and establishing a sustained presence on and around the Moon.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.