NASA rocket stops short during test sparking fears over Moon mission delays

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NASA 's deep space exploration rocket built by Boeing saw it's ground test cut short after it briefly ignited all four engines.

On Saturday, the engines of its behemoth core stage were ignited for the first time, but the crucial test was cut short after only a minute.

The ground test was scheduled to advance the US government programme to return humans to the moon in the next few years, which is already delayed.

The Space Launch System's (SLS) 212-foot tall core stage roared to life at 4.27pm local time (10.27pm GMT) at the testing facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

It was ignited for just over a minute which is much shorter than the four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the rocket's first launch in November later this year. It was also scheduled to run for eight minutes.

The engine test, the last part of NASA's almost year-long 'Green Run' test campaign, was a vital step for the space agency.

An unmanned launched is expected later this year under the NASA Artemis program, which President Trump and his administration pushed, to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.

It was unclear whether Boeing and NASA would have to repeat the test, which could push the debut launch back a further year.

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To simulate the internal conditions the rocket would see in a real liftoff, the rocket's four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines ignited for roughly one minute and 15 seconds.

They generated 1.6m pounds of thrust and consumed 700,000 gallons of propellants.

The ground test took place on NASA's largest test stand, a massive facility towering 35 stories tall.

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The engine core is three years behind schedule and nearly $3billion (£2.2million) over budget.

Critics have long argued for the space agency to retire the rocket's shuttle-era core technologies in favour of newer alternatives at lower costs.

It costs as little as $90million (£66million) to fly rockets designed by Elon Musk's SpaceX, as a comparison.

But SLS scientists say it would take two more more launches on those rockets to launch what the SLS could carry in a single mission.

Reuters reported in October that President-elect Joe Biden space advisers aim to delay the 2024 NASA goal for the moon, casting doubts on the long-term fate of SLS.

The reports come as SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin scramble to bring rivals to the market.

NASA and Boeing engineers have been hit with five tropical storms in the area, a nearby hurricane and the Covid pandemic at their Stennis facility over the past year.

  • Nasa
  • Space
  • Science

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