NASA on Tuesday conducted its second ground-based test of its Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world. The test, which took place at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah, is the last full-scale test of the booster before it'll be used in an unmanned test flight in late 2018.
For those that missed the first test, you’re in for quite the spectacle. It’s basically a massive rocket booster laid on its side, strapped down and, well, launched. The rocket doesn’t move of course but it sure puts on a tremendous display of power. Those in the audience at a safe distance away no doubt felt the approximate 3.6 million pounds of thrust.
NASA notes that during the full two-minute test, temperatures within the booster reached nearly 6,000 Fahrenheit. An array of more than 530 instruments captured a wealth of data which NASA will comb over in the coming weeks and months to make sure everything is in order before its true test.
The Space Launch System is designed to carry NASA’s Orion crew vehicle into space and away from Earth’s gravitational pull. It’ll one day facilitate NASA’s journey to Mars although it’s not the only space agency with the Red Planet in its sights.
A couple of months ago, SpaceX said it plans to send a spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. Unfortunately, it’ll still be many more years before humans step foot on a planet not named Earth.