The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory, Utah. During the Space Launch System flight the boosters will provide more than 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth, the first step on NASA’s Journey to Mars. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA Successfully Tests Rocket Booster That Will Bring Humans to Mars

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The Space Launch System is a next-generation rocket system designed to be the most powerful rocket ever built, which will help humans reach deep space destinations like (hopefully) Mars. Today, NASA completed a final test of the rocket booster’s engine in a stunning display for onlookers in the desert.

Scientists at NASA aren’t the only ones working on getting human beings to the surface of another planet, but time will tell whether the government space agency or private spaceflight companies like SpaceXor a partnership between the two—will get there first. NASA’s making good progress, though, as this is the final test of the SLS booster before an actual flight test with the Orion capsule designed to carry humans off into space.

NASA’s Marshall Center put it this way, via the description of this video about the Space Launch System:

“This was the last full-scale test for the booster before SLS is ready in 2018 for the first uncrewed test flight with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, marking a key milestone on the agency’s Journey to Mars.

The booster was tested at a cold motor conditioning target of 40 degrees Fahrenheit—the colder end of its accepted propellant temperature range. When ignited, temperatures inside the booster reached nearly 6,000 degrees. The two-minute, full-duration ground qualification test provided NASA with critical data on 82 qualification objectives that will support certification of the booster for flight. Engineers now will evaluate test data captured by more than 530 instrumentation channels on the booster.”

The final rocket configuration will feature two of these boosters on the sides with a core rocket in the middle, which probably looks at least a little familiar to anyone keeping track, because it was designed after the rocket that used to launch the space shuttle until that program ended. Since all seems to be going well in tests so far, it looks like we’ll see its successor in action relatively soon.

(image via NASA)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.