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The SLS lighting up. Photo: NASA/Robert Markowitz

NASA has cleared its final major hurdle before its next huge rocket can make its inaugural flight to space.

Why it matters: The rocket — known as the Space Launch System — is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, and it's considered key to NASA's plans to send missions to the moon and beyond.

Catch up quick: Last Thursday, NASA fired up the SLS' core stage on a pad for an eight-minute burn that simulated what it would be like for the rocket to fly to space.

  • The test was a redo of an earlier test that only saw the rocket fire for about one minute, preventing NASA and its contractors from getting the data they needed for the firing.
  • "During this test, the team conducted new operations with the core stage for the first time, repeated some critical operations, and recorded test data that will help us verify the core stage is ready for the first and future SLS flights for NASA’s Artemis program," John Honeycutt, manager for the SLS Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

The big picture: NASA hopes to use the SLS to launch people to the Moon for its Artemis program.

  • The Trump-era mission has won the support of the Biden administration.

What's next: The SLS will now be sent to Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be incorporated into the rocket that will launch the first uncrewed flight of the Orion capsule.

  • NASA previously said that it expects to launch the first flight of the SLS by the end of the year, but whether that schedule holds remains to be seen.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden lays out $1.75 trillion "framework" before Europe departure

President Biden in Kearny, N.J., on Oct. 25. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden announced Thursday a "framework" for $1.75 trillion in social program and climate change spending after failing in prior efforts to win over his fellow Democrats on a much broader and costlier package.

Why it matters: Biden is gambling that by proclaiming the broad contours of the proposal, which he immediately began selling in a meeting with House Democrats before jetting off to Europe, progressives will vote for his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan if and when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the floor.

Economy slows in third quarter amid Delta variant

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy increased at an annual rate of 2% in the third quarter, the Department of Commerce said Thursday.

Driving the news: The gross domestic product figures for July through September come in much lower than the 6.7% increase in the second quarter, reflecting the "continued economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Department of Commerce.

Top Dem says Big Oil put Earth on "brink" of catastrophe

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Don't expect a sedate House hearing Thursday on allegations that Big Oil has intentionally sown doubt about climate change.

What they're saying: "For far too long, Big Oil has escaped accountability for its central role in bringing our planet to the brink of a climate catastrophe. That ends today," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, intends to say in her opening remarks shared with Axios.

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