HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Stennis Space Center conducted its final hot fire test in the Green Run test series on NASA’s new Space Launch System core stage Saturday afternoon. While the rocket’s engines were shut down before the anticipated eight-minute time frame, NASA officials said it was a “successful initiation of the engines.”
According to Alex Cagnola, SLS Core Stage Engineer, the teams were probably seeing some data that they didn’t like. However, he said just like other green-run tests they will break down the data for the launch at the Kennedy Space Center.
“The first minute was good data,” said Cagnola. “But this is a test we have certain boundaries we have to keep. The test teams were probably seeing some data they didn’t like so our engines were shut down ahead of the eight-minute time frame.”
Four RS-25 engines fired at the same time, producing a combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust and causing elevated decibel levels. The acoustic level produced is expected to have been about 10-20 decibels higher than during a normal single-engine test at the site.
The actual acoustic level experienced by area residents depended on their location relative to the test site and the prevailing weather conditions.
While the sound was noticeable to many, the acoustic level was not expected to reach high enough to have any damaging effect. Rumbling could have been potentially heard as far away as 60 miles from NASA.
Aerojet Rocketdyne engineering project manager Jeff Zotti called it the most significant liquid-fueled rocket engine test since the Apollo program.
During the test, engineers powered up all the core stage systems, load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic, or supercold, propellant into the tanks and fire all four engines at the same time.
This final hot fire test will give NASA its first chance to examine how closely the new rocket stage behaves under launch conditions. During the test, the core stage was filled with fuel and the engines fired for the full eight minutes they must work to reach orbit.
The Green Run test series is a comprehensive assessment of the rocket’s core stage prior to SLS launching Artemis missions to the Moon. The core stage includes the liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank, four RS-25 engines, and the computers, electronics, and avionics that serve as the “brains” of the rocket.
NASA has completed seven of the eight core stage Green Run tests, including loading and draining propellant for the first time during the most recent test, the wet dress rehearsal, on Dec. 20.
Following this last test, NASA will then ship the core stage from Stennis to Kennedy Space Center. There, it will be assembled with the other parts of the Artemis One rocket and Orion spacecraft. The SLS will eventually be used to push the spacecraft into space.
Officials say the SLS is the only rocket that can send astronauts, the Orion capsule, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission, making it critical to NASA’s mission to explore space.
The test was followed by a post-test briefing approximately two hours after the test concludes.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, there was no public test viewing opportunity on site.