NASA’s giant lunar rocket had an engine problem during a critical test Saturday, and the error could further delay the agency’s attempts to send astronauts to the moon.
The rocket, dubbed the Space Launch System (SLS), is designed to eventually deliver astronauts to deep space. The system is an integral part of a larger program called Artemis, which aims to return humans to the surface of the moon for the first time since 1972. The project is worth about $30 billion, and the agency has spent about $18 billion to develop the rocket.
The SLS main stage, the largest part of the system and its structural backbone, was assembled and firmly secured at the Stennis Space Center in St. Louis Bay, Mississippi, Saturday for a critical “hot fire” test. For the first time, the rocket was ready to launch the four powerful RS-25 engines simultaneously, as it did at launch. But the launch stopped after one minute instead of the proper eight, and now it is known why. It turned out that the failure was due to a failure of a main component, and now engineers are trying to solve the problem.