Today, Stennis tested an engine that will eventually take us to new heights.
With a rumble, a bang, and a lot of water vapor, Stennis fired up one of its RS-25 engines. RS-25 engines play a large role in shooting American space exploration to completely new heights. Space Launch System Program Manager Todd May said, “The Space Launch System is a rocket that has a capsule on top named Orion and this is meant to take humans out into deep space again, something that hasn’t been done for over 40 years.”
To fire up an engine, liquid oxygen and hydrogen fuel, stored at temperatures nearing negative 423 degrees Fahrenheit, are fed into the engine. When it combusts, temperatures will exceed 6000 degrees.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is the company contracted to build, what NASA officials call, the Ferrari of rocket engines. Jim Paulsen, VP of program execution of Aerojet Rocketdyne, said, “And it’s really critical to make sure we understand this engine that flew successfully on the shuttle program on the new vehicle. You want to find your problems or weak links here on the test stand rather than, obviously, on a flight.”
NASA officials say the four RS-25 engines that will propel the space shuttle will all be tested at Stennis before they’re rocketed into space.
Bill Hill, with NASA Exploration Systems Development, said, “Stennis is very critical and always has been, through the Apollo program, through the shuttle program and now with exploration systems development.”
The RS-25 engine is about 14 feet long and 8 feet wide. While running, it burns about 350 gallons of fuel a second. A successful test of the engine could mean big things for America in the future. “We’ll fly in 2018. That mission will actually take the Orion capsule out around the moon. The next time we fly, we take humans and set a human distance record for mankind,” said May.
NASA officials say they hope to get to Mars sometime near the year 2030, but if getting to Mars turns into a race like the race to the moon, you could see us getting to the red planet much sooner.