February 29, 2024

To the Moon and Beyond: NASA’s Artemis Engine Roars in Latest Test

NASA RS 25 Engine Hot Fire Certification Testing at StennisNASA RS 25 Engine Hot Fire Certification Testing at Stennis

NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine on November 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Credit: Danny Nowlin, NASA

NASA’s third RS-25 engine test on November 29 was a key part of a 12-test series for certifying the engines used in the SLS rocket for Artemis missions. The tests, which involve advanced manufacturing processes like 3D printing, aim to ensure reliability and performance for future lunar and Mars missions. The engines are tested under extreme conditions, exceeding their required operational limits to ensure safety and effectiveness.

NASA conducted the third RS-25 engine hot fire in a critical 12-test certification series on November 29, demonstrating a key capability necessary for flight of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket during Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.

Advancements in Engine Manufacturing

NASA is conducting the series of tests to certify new manufacturing processes for producing RS-25 engines for future deep space missions, beginning with Artemis V. Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies Company and lead engines contractor for the SLS rocket, is incorporating new manufacturing techniques and processes, such as 3D printing, in production of new RS-25 engines.

NASA RS 25 Engine Hot Fire Gimbal Certification TestingNASA RS 25 Engine Hot Fire Gimbal Certification Testing

NASA successfully completed a critical RS-25 engine test for the SLS rocket, essential for future Artemis missions to the Moon and Mars. Credit: Danny Nowlin, NASA

Crews gimbaled, or pivoted, the RS-25 engine around a central point during the almost 11-minute (650 seconds) hot fire on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The gimbaling technique is used to control and stabilize SLS as it reaches orbit.

Pushing Performance Boundaries

During the November 29 test, operators also pushed the engine beyond any parameters it might experience during flight to provide a margin of operational safety. The 650-second test exceeded the 500 seconds RS-25 engines must operate to help power SLS to space. The RS-25 engine also was fired to 113% power level, exceeding the 111% level needed to lift SLS to orbit.

NASA RS 25 Engine Hot Fire Certification TestingNASA RS 25 Engine Hot Fire Certification Testing

The third RS-25 engine test on November 29 advances NASA’s goal of certifying engines using new manufacturing processes for deep space missions. Credit: Danny Nowlin, NASA

Long-Term Mission Goals and Engine Testing

The ongoing series will stretch into 2024 as NASA continues its mission to return humans to the lunar surface to establish a long-term presence for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars.

Four RS-25 engines fire simultaneously to generate a combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust at launch and 2 million pounds of thrust during ascent to help power each SLS flight. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne modified 16 holdover space shuttle main engines, all proven flightworthy at NASA Stennis, for Artemis missions I through IV.

Comprehensive Testing at Stennis

Every new RS-25 engine that will help power SLS also will be tested at NASA Stennis. RS-25 tests at the site are conducted by a combined team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services operators. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.