BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - NASA successfully tested the first deep space RS-25 rocket engine for 8 minutes and 20 seconds Thursday at Stennis Space Center, clearing a major milestone toward the next great era of space exploration. The next time engine rocket engine #2059 fires for that length of time, it will be carrying humans on their first deep-space mission in more than 45 years.
"What a great moment for NASA and Stennis," said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA's Stennis Space Center. "We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction."
The hot fire marked the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS), being built to carry humans on future deep-space missions, including to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. Four RS-25 engines will help power the SLS core stage.
RS-25 engine No. 2059 and two other flight engines, scheduled for testing at Stennis in the coming months, will launch SLS for the first Orion crewed mission, known as Exploration Mission-2. That mission is expected to carry four astronauts into lunar orbit to test key elements of the spacecraft. It will mark the first American flight to carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The engines used on initial SLS missions are flight engines remaining from the Space Shuttle Program that powered 135 space shuttle missions from 1981 to 2011.
Following Thursday's firing, Stennis and Aerojet Rocketdyne will conduct a development engine series to test new flight engine controllers and will continue to test RS-25 flight engines.
In addition, the agency is preparing the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis to test the SLS core stage that will be used on the rocket's first flight, Exploration Mission-1. Testing will involve installing the flight core stage on the B-2 stand and firing its four RS-25 rocket engines simultaneously.
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