The US space agency said that NASA conducted an ignition test of the engines of its new SLS giant rocket on Saturday, but stopped it earlier than expected.
The “hot fire” test, conducted at the Stennis Test Center in Mississippi (South), would have lasted just over eight minutes – the time it took to ignite the engines during the flight – but were turned off after just over a minute.
“The teams are studying the data to determine the reason for this early shutdown, and they will decide what action to take,” NASA said in a statement.
The SLS (Space Launch System) heavy rocket is a powerful launcher intended to carry the Orion spacecraft, as part of Artemis’ return to the moon program.
NASA said that despite its abbreviation, the RS-25 engine test provided valuable information for future missions.
“The Saturday test was an important step in ensuring that the main stage of the SLS missile is ready for the Artemis 1 mission, and carrying a crew on future missions,” said the NASA administrator. Jim Bridenstein.
“Even though the engines didn’t work all the time, the team worked successfully during the countdown, firing the engines and getting some valuable data,” he added.
The reasons for its early shutdown are not yet known, but SLS Program Director John Honeycutt told reporters that a lightning bolt was seen in a thermal protection blanket on one of the engines and data was being analyzed. .
“In my opinion, the team made a lot of progress today, and we learned a lot about the machine,” said John Honeycutt.
The Artémis 1 mission, which will test the new SLS heavy rocket with the Orion capsule without humans on board, is scheduled for the end of 2021. Artémis 2 will take astronauts around the moon in 2023, without landing on the moon. Finally, Artemis will send 3 astronauts to lunar soil, including the first woman, in theory in 2024.
Altogether, in its configuration for Artemis 1, the SLS would be larger than the Statue of Liberty and more powerful than the famous Saturn V rocket that took American astronauts to the moon from 1969 to 1972.
NASA is targeting later to build “Artemis Base Camp” on the moon, to be held at the end of the decade, provided that the next US president, Joe Biden, and Congress agree to finance tens of billions of dollars. Required.