NASA tests mega rocket engine for upcoming Moon mission

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NASA has fired up its RS-25 engine at 3:35 p.m today
NASA has fired up its RS-25 engine at 3:35 p.m today

New Delhi : In a bid to make a successful moon mission in near future, NASA has successfully tested a mega rocket engine, marking a major milestone in its aim to return astronauts to the lunar surface in the next five years. The statement was confirmed by US space agency today. The latest test was conducted on April 4 at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St Louis, Mississippi, US, NASA said in a statement.

The "hot fire" test is a joint effort of over four years of testing for the RS-25 engines that will send the first four Space Launch System (SLS) rockets into space, it said.

"Engines are now a 'go' for missions to send astronauts forward to the Moon to learn and prepare for missions to Mars," said Johnny Heflin from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, US.

"We are ready to provide the power to explore the Moon and beyond," Heflin said.

The agency fired up its RS-25 engine at 3:35 p.m. EDT (2:25 p.m. local time CDT or 1935 GMT) today (Thursday) at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center, near the Mississippi-Louisiana border.

RS-25 is best known for powering the space shuttle, which flew 135 missions between 1981 and 2011 before the fleet was retired.

In late March, NASA and Boeing (the SLS prime contractor) announced they have almost finished the outfitting of the core stage engine section for the first flight of SLS, which is scheduled to take place in 2020. This flight, called Exploration Mission-1, will be an uncrewed test that will send an Orion spacecraft around the moon and then back to Earth again. The first crew is scheduled to fly on Orion in 2022.

To inform, NASA no longer uses the space shuttle to send American astronauts to orbit; for now, all of its astronauts fly on Russian Soyuz rockets to the International Space Station until commercial crew vehicles are ready for test flights in 2019 and 2020. NASA plans to continue putting some astronauts on Soyuz even after regular commercial crew missions in SpaceX Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner vehicles begin.