NASA ignited the flames of the SLS booster on June 28 in the second and final test of the booster. The test, referred to as QM-2, took place at 11:05 EDT (16:05 BST) deep in the Utah desert at Orbital ATK test facilities. Upon reaching T-0, the booster, strapped to the test pad and held in place, was ignited and fired for two full minutes. Throughout the duration of the test over 500 sensors collected data on the booster’s performance.
This was not the first time NASA has tested an SLS booster. The first qualification motor test, QM-1, took place in March 2015. The test focused on the highest temperature that the booster’s propellant can be, heating it up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in anticipation of warm Floridian weather for when SLS takes flight. This test used the opposite end of the temperature scale. Cooled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the booster’s propellant was pushed towards its lower limits in order to collect valuable data ahead of the SLS’ debut in 2018.
The Space Launch System, often abbreviated to SLS, is set to become the world’s most powerful rocket following its debut in just a couple of years’ time. The heavy-lift launch vehicle will enable new scientific capabilities for NASA and play a key role in the journey to Mars. The boosters provide the necessary thrust to give the SLS an extra boost from the launchpad, with each booster producing 3.6 million pounds of maximum thrust. The rocket will have two boosters, one on either side of the main body. The boosters remain attached to the rocket for two minutes, after which they are jettisoned from the rocket and fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
The SLS rocket will make its first flight in 2018. The flight, known as Exploration Mission-1, will launch the Orion capsule on a trajectory that will take it on a three-week journey in space, with six of those days spent in retrograde orbit around the Moon. Assuming a successful first test flight, the SLS rocket will then be upgraded to its Block 1B variant and launched in 2023 with a crew of four astronauts. NASA believe that the SLS plays a key role in what is often referred to as the Journey to Mars. Perhaps one day we will see the rocket taking astronauts on a journey to the Martian surface…