NASA has reached another milestone with the successful two-minute test launch of its biggest rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), bringing the space agency one step closer to Mars.
The startup test took place in Promontory, Utah, and was streamed online on NASA’s website for the public. After the successful completion of the 82 qualification objectives set, the booster in now competent to fly. The first time the test took place, it was conducted in 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The second time, the booster was launched at only 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to test out how the propellant will burn under different temperature conditions. During this last test, the equivalent of 3.6 million pounds of thrust were needed for takeoff.
When the SLS is finally launched in 2018, the temperature of the 5-segment booster will reach around 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit and launch the Orion spacecraft with enough force to break free from the Earth’s gravity. Further advancements in technology to make the mission possible are still needed, especially since a bigger rocket with more power is needed to even come close to Mars. The launch of the SLS and Orion is currently on schedule, with different parts of the rocket undergoing production.
Perhaps the most ambitious part of Mars exploration, is NASA’s plan to send a manned aircraft to Mars in the 2030s. This breakthrough would mark the start of human presence in deep space.
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