The ‘monster’ engine of NASA successfully launched: The world has the most powerful rocket on the planet


At 5:00 p.m. on January 16, 2021, NASA successfully tested a 65-meter long SLS (Space Launch System) rocket core. The rocket’s four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines ignited in about 8 minutes, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust and consuming 700,000 gallons of propellant on a test rack to simulate internal conditions during take-off.

“This is a one-off test in this class of super-heavy boosters,” said John Honeycutt, SLS program director at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Seeing for the first time four RS-25 engines burning at the same time at the core is a major milestone for the SLS. “


Four RS-25 engines fired in over a minute and produced 1.6 million pounds of thrust. Source: NASA TV.

NASA said that this test is the eighth and final test in the “Green Run” series that has been carried out by the agency since 2019. The successful SLS is the first step to launch the Artemis Program (to bring 2 astronauts 1 male, 1 female to land on the Moon in 2024) of the US next time.

“Saturday’s test 16/1 is a major step forward to ensure that the core phase of the SLS missile is ready for the Artemis I mission and to carry the crew on future missions.” Said NASA director Jim Bridenstine, who attended the test. “Even though the engine hasn’t fired the whole time, the team has been successful in counting down, activating the engine and acquiring valuable data to pave the way for our journey ahead.”

With the success of the rocket core, the SLS is officially the most powerful space rocket ever activated on Earth. The most powerful record-keeping rocket system on the planet previously was also built by NASA – named Saturn V – the missile that brought NASA’s Apollo 11 ship to the Moon in 1969.

THE POWER OF “MONSTER” SLS

The SLS is the largest, most powerful rocket ever built. Each rocket produces more thrust than 14 four-engine commercial aircraft. A pair of boosters provides more than 75% of the total SLS thrust at launch.

The 'monster' engine of NASA successfully launched: The world has the most powerful rocket on the planet - photo 2
According to the plan, the SLS will bring the Orion spacecraft to the Moon in 2024. Source: NASA

The rocket was manufactured by Northrop Grumman in Utah. At launch, the boosters carry all of the SLS’s fuel. After launch, the boosters operate for 2 minutes before separating from the central floor.

The thrust of the SLS varies according to the launch configuration. The lowest is 3991.6 tonnes for crew carriers and the highest is 4309 tonnes for cargo. Equivalent to the load of the system, with the lowest being 27 tons and the highest being 46 tons.

Main boost rocket specifications (SLS has 2 boosters)

Length: 54m

Diameter: 3.65m

Weight: 725.75 tons 1 fruit

Propellant: Polybutadiene acrylonitrile (PBAN)

Thrust: 1,632 tons

Action Time: 126 seconds

Kathy Lueders, the newly appointed captain of NASA’s manned flight program, has released the new cost estimate for the SLS super rocket. As of August 27, the estimated costs amount to $ 9.1 billion. In addition, the cost of the ground support system is $ 2.4 billion. Earlier, the US congress approved a $ 7 billion plan, according to fiscal year 2019.

In April, the estimated cost for SLS was $ 8.75 billion and the ground infrastructure system (EGS) was $ 2.33 billion. According to NASA, the previous cost calculated in 2014 for the two systems was 7.02 billion and 1.84 billion. Thus, the team price amount has exceeded the threshold of 30% that NASA has been warned earlier, Space.com information.

Critics have long argued that NASA should transition from space shuttle core technologies, which have a launch cost of $ 1 billion or more per mission, to commercial alternatives. Newer promises lower costs.

By comparison, the least cost to launch the giant but less powerful Falcon Heavy from Elon Musk’s SpaceX is $ 90 million; and about $ 350 million per launch of the United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy. While the rockets are newer, more reusable.

The Great Escape

Like many types of rockets, the boosters of rockets are distributed in phases:

At take-off, the SLS core and two solid-fuel boosters work to propel a 5.75 million pound missile off the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and send it into orbit, carrying one the spaceship named Orion.

To do this, in just 8 minutes, the SLS’s four RS-25 engines burn 735,000 gallons of liquid fuel to generate 2 million pounds of thrust and the twin boosters burn more than two million pounds of solid fuel to generate. out more than 7 million pounds of thrust.

During the flight, rocket engineers often say that the rocket is going uphill, in a way that this stage of launch is like carrying a giant weight on a mountain with Earth’s gravity sucking everything. to the ground.

After the SLS lost the weight of the propulsion system and fuel in the early stages, it still needed more energy to bring the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. At this point, the upper part of the rocket and Orion are 100 miles above the Earth, at a speed of more than 17,500 miles per hour, and begin a circular orbit around the Earth. This is Earth’s low-range orbit, commonly known as LEO.

Essentially, the SLS can put more than 95 tons into this low-range orbit in Block I configuration. However, a deep space mission (to the Moon) requires a boosters to go far beyond LEO with sufficient strength and speed to overcome the Earth’s gravity; as well as having to carry the spacecraft further to reach the Moon. Therefore, it has to reduce the cargo load, yield weight to fuel and power to accelerate.

In the second mission of carrying Orion and the astronauts – Artemis II, the SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft and its crew further than the previous NASA astronauts in the 20th century.

Like the Artemis I flight phase, the second flight will use the Block I version of the SLS. In the third flight – Artemis III, SLS will carry Orion carrying 2 astronauts on a mission in 2024 to land on the Moon.

The Americans, along with their commercial and international partners, will use the Moon as a “space transit station” to test technologies and prepare for missions to Mars.

The SLS’s final development was the Block 2 missile that could carry crew and cargo or just cargo needed for Mars exploration or for planetary missions outside of the Solar System.

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