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The SLS rocket comes to life. Photo: NASA TV

NASA staged a ground test of its Space Launch System rocket Saturday. The test — which was expected to see the four engines of the core stage of the huge rocket fire for eight minutes — ended after a little more than a minute.

Why it matters: The SLS, which is years behind schedule, is key to NASA's plans to send people to deep space destinations like the Moon.

Details: This test was designed to be the rocket's last big milestone ahead of being shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center for its first uncrewed flight to space expected at the end of the year.

  • Engineers are investigating the cause of the early shutdown, and it's not clear whether the space agency will need to re-do the test ahead of shipping the rocket.
  • NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a press briefing that "it's still too early to tell," whether or not the first flight of the SLS could happen this year.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The big picture: The SLS is years delayed and billions of dollars over budget.

  • NASA plans to send people back to the surface of the Moon by 2024, but additional delays to the SLS will make meeting that already ambitious deadline increasingly difficult.

Go deeper: The next big NASA rocket's time has come

Editor's note: This story was updated with more information from a post-test NASA press briefing.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Investment in the space industry overcame the pandemic's headwinds in 2020

A SpaceX launch in 2020. Photo: SpaceX

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the last quarter of 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Space Capital.

Why it matters: The space industry turned out to be far more robust in the face of the pandemic than many experts were initially expecting.

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

5 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.