Jan 29, 2021 - Science

NASA will stage another test of its huge new rocket next month

A close up of a rocket engine firing.

An SLS engine firing. Photo: NASA TV

NASA is planning to re-do a major test of its Space Launch System rocket after the last test didn't go as planned earlier this month.

The big picture: The space agency hopes to launch the first uncrewed flight of the SLS by the end of the year, but having to re-run this test could put that timeline at risk.

Where it stands: NASA is planning to re-run the hot fire test — where the core stage of the rocket is strapped to a pad while its four engines fire — as soon as the last week of February, the agency announced Friday.

  • For the first test, the four engines of the SLS's core stage were expected to light up for eight minutes, but instead, they only fired for about a minute before automatically shutting down.
  • NASA is hoping this re-do of the test will see the core stage fire for at least four minutes, allowing the agency and its lead contractor Boeing to gather more data ahead of its first spaceflight.
  • "Conducting a second hot fire test will allow the team to repeat operations from the first hot fire test and obtain data on how the core stage and the engines perform over a longer period that simulates more activities during the rocket’s launch and ascent," NASA said in a blog post.

What's next: It's not yet clear whether the agency will need to delay the first SLS flight planned for November.

  • Once the second hot fire test is complete, NASA expects it will take about a month to get the rocket ready to ship from Mississippi to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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