NASA successfully tests the rocket that will take us to Mars
A major step towards sending humans to Mars just took place in the Utah desert.
NASA just successfully tested its new Space Launch System (SLS), the world’s largest solid rocket motor, according to Space.com. The rocket, placed on its side, completed a continuous two minute burn. The test is the first of many to come, but the rocket NASA plans to use to send crewed missions into deep space officially works. Which is a good thing.
The new rocket is a more advanced, more powerful version of the solid rockets used to take the Space Shuttle into orbit. Those rockets put out roughly 3 million pounds of thrust. The new motor puts out 3.6 million pounds of thrust, which is equivalent to around 14 Boeing 747 jets, each with four engines, taking off at full power.
If you are wondering how much horsepower that would be, there isn’t really an easy way to figure that out. Besides, if you could drive a car with that much horsepower, you would probably die instantly.
The rocket was built by Orbital ATK, a contractor working closely with NASA. It is the result of years of work, but also just one of many steps – albeit a major one. If the rocket hadn’t worked properly, it might have put the entire Mars mission at jeopardy.
“It is a big day for us, the culmination of many years of experience work during the space shuttle program that will transition now to the SLS,” Charles Precourt, Orbital ATK’s general manager said prior to the launch. “The real success is collecting the information that we need to go further to be able to put [a] crew on the vehicle in a few years.”
The first actual flight using the SLS is scheduled for 2018, when NASA plans to use it to send an un-crewed Orion spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit. The first crewed flight using the SLS system will tentatively occur in 2021.
If each of those steps is successful, NASA will remain on target to send the first human crew to Mars in 2030.
This is the first of two qualification tests, the second will take place in early 2016.
“These two qualification tests are major steps in getting the booster certified for the first two flights of SLS and another step closer on the journey to Mars,” Alex Priskos, NASA’s manager for the SLS boosters said.