NASA’s SLS core stage hot fire test didn’t go as planned

Shane McGlaun - Jan 17, 2021, 8:59am CST
NASA’s SLS core stage hot fire test didn’t go as planned

Yesterday we mentioned that NASA TV would be airing the hot fire test of the SLS core stage rocket meant to push Artemis I to the moon. The core stage rocket was fueled and attached to a test sand with the intent of firing its quartet of massive rocket engines for the entire duration of time it would take for the rocket to reach orbit. However, things didn’t go well, and the SLS core stage rocket ended its test 67 seconds after it began.

The test was supposed to last about eight minutes and should have been the last hurdle for the rocket to clear before it was shipped to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch preparations. The SLS core stage is built by Boeing and uses four Rocketdyne RS-25 engines. The engines were fired at 5:27 PM EST Saturday.

The four rocket engines lit at 120-millisecond intervals as expected. They develop up to 1.6 million pounds of thrust, making this the most powerful rocket tested at Stennis since the Saturn 5 rocket used the same stand in the 1960s. After slightly more than a minute of firing, the engines were cut off by command from the rocket’s onboard computer system, which detected an unspecified fault in one of the engines.

Engineers are tracing the cause of the shutdown, but as yet, NASA has little detail to share on what may have caused the test failure. NASA had expected to conduct the first test flight of the SLS rocket at the end of 2021. It’s unclear at this time if the failed test will eliminate the possibility of launching this year.

NASA has said that it has lots of data to go through before determining if the SLS will still launch this year. NASA does say it gathered important data about the rocket despite the test ending early.


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