On Thursday, NASA was to test its new giant SLS rocket, which will one day take astronauts to the moon, after an earlier test ended in January.
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During the “hot fire” test of the main stage of the missile, four RS-25 engines will be ignited for eight minutes, and tanks filled with 2.6 million liters of fuel, to simulate the launch stage.
The test takes place at the Stennis Test Center in Mississippi (south). It was possible to achieve a two-hour window, from 19:00 GMT.
At the end of January in a similar test, the engines stopped running much earlier than expected, after just over a minute of ignition.
In the aftermath of the accident, the US Space Agency declared that no “major repairs” were necessary.
The SLS (Space Launch System) heavy missile is already years behind schedule. It is a powerful launcher intended to carry the Orion spacecraft, as part of the American Artemis Return to the Moon program.
If the test is successful, the missile will then be transported to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The first flight, Artemis 1, will be scheduled for later this year according to the initial schedule, with the Orion capsule at its top, with no astronaut on board.
Artemis 2, in 2023, will send astronauts around the moon, but they won’t land.
Finally, Artemis will send 3 astronauts to lunar soil, including the first woman, in theory in 2024.
In its Artemis 1 configuration, the SLS will be larger than the Statue of Liberty and more powerful than the iconic Saturn V that took American astronauts to the moon in the last century.
SpaceX is also developing a heavy launch platform, Starship, to reach the moon and even Mars. Recent tests of this missile ended with impressive explosions. A new test prototype of the Starship could be carried out in the coming days.