NASA SLS core stage to get a second hot fire test ahead of Artemis I mission

NASA has delivered a Green Run update for its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket after holding the first hot fire test for the SLS core stage earlier this month. That initial test, while successful in firing all four RS-25 engines together for the first time, didn't last as long as NASA had anticipated. The first test only ran for around a minute, so now we're going to get a second hot fire test.

This second hot fire test, NASA said, will be happening "as early as the fourth week in February," though it sounds like a specific test date hasn't been set yet. The good news is that NASA doesn't need a ton of lead time for this second hot fire test, as inspections following the first hot fire test "showed the core stage hardware, including its engines, and the B-2 test are in excellent condition."

No major repairs are needed before this second hot fire test takes place, though there are some "minor thermal system repairs" that need to be made before the next test can happen. The second hot fire test should run for about eight minutes in total – far longer than the first test. Firing the engines for that long will simulate the "amount of time it will take to send the rocket to space following launch."

Assuming this second hot fire test goes well, then NASA will really get things going toward the Artemis I launch. "After the second hot fire test, it will take about a month to refurbish the core stage and its engines," NASA said today. "Then, the Pegasus barge will transport the core stage to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be assembled with the other parts of the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft being prepared for the Artemis I launch later this year."

That Artemis I launch is currently slated for November 2021 and will see an unmanned Orion spacecraft travel to the Moon and enter a retrograde orbit around it for 6 days. Artemis I will set the stage for future crewed flights in the Artemis program, but before that mission can happen, we have this second hot fire test on the horizon. We'll let you know when NASA sets a specific date for the second hot fire test, so stay tuned for more.