There’s nothing quite like a big ol’ rocket booster doing its thing, spitting flames and raging against gravity. Before these beasts head into space, they must go through extensive testing on the ground. On Wednesday, NASA shared a thrilling live view of one of these crucial tests for its powerful Space Launch System (SLS) booster.
SLS is under development as NASA’s planned workhorse rocket for its. The agency is eyeing a tight deadline of 2024 to return humans to our favorite nearby space rock.
NASA TV went live from the Northrop Grumman facilities in Promontory, Utah, where a full-scale SLS booster was lying on its side. The test went off as scheduled at 12:05 p.m. PT. NASA quickly tweeted a replay of the countdown and first part of the test.
This Flight Support Booster-1 test has the main objective of confirming “motor performance and manufacturing quality for potential new materials and processes,” says the space agency. NASA is already looking beyond the moon to how it’ll launch missions deeper into space, including missions to Mars.
The booster delivered a fiery show during the two-minute test. As NASA noted, “the SLS solid rocket boosters are the largest, most powerful boosters ever built for flight.” The agency also pointed out how the exhaust from these tests “is so hot it turns the desert sand into glass.” NASA will now evaluate the data in order to improve the system.
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SLS will be equipped with twin boosters that’ll pack quite a punch during launch. NASA is hoping to put the system through its paces with the uncrewed Artemis 1 test flight that will ferry an Orion capsule around the moon. The agency hasn’t yet set a date for the launch, but it won’t be before late 2021.
In the meantime, we can enjoy the pomp and circumstance of this latest SLS test.