Saturday's hot fire was supposed to be the eighth and final step in NASA's "Green Run", a program created to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS's first launch, called Artemis 1 - an uncrewed test flight now scheduled for November 2021. "During the firing, the onboard software acted appropriately and initiated a safe shutdown of the engine", the statement read.
Prime contractor Boeing previously said the test would need to run at least 250 seconds, or more than four minutes, for teams to gather enough data to move forward with transport to Kennedy Space Center and launch sometime before the end of the year.
The engines being tested on Saturday contributed to 21 successful shuttle flights over the vehicle's 30-year operational history.
At this time, the exact cause of the abort has not been announced. Because test preparation is running ahead of schedule, NASA TV coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. EST for a test start time of 4 p.m. At this point, the test was fully automated. For the first time, the rocket was ready to simultaneously fire its four powerful RS-25 engines as it would for launch. The core stage includes the liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank, four RS-25 engines, and the computers, electronics, and avionics that serve as the "brains" of the rocket.
The core stage engines, manufactured by propulsion specialist Aerojet Rocketdyne, have already made history. "Still have four good engines, right?"
The rocket stage is vertical on the B-2 Test Stand in Stennis but is heavily strapped down.
The maximum amount of thrust that the four RS-25 engines can generate during launch and ascent is over 900,000 kg (2 million lbs) or around 8,900 kilonewtons (kN) of thrust. Together, these will be used for all configurations of the SLS rocket, which are grouped according to two Blocks. One mission can carry payloads that might require two or more launches even for SpaceX's upcoming Starship, let alone existing options.
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Artist's rendering of the various Block 1 and Block 2 SLS configurations.
When the flight is complete, the SLS will become the most powerful rocket ever to fly in space.
"Today was a good day", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a press conference after the test, adding "we got lots of data that we're going to be able to sort through" to determine if a do-over is needed and whether a November 2021 debut launch date is still possible.
It is also central to their long-term vision of space exploration, which includes deploying the elements of the Lunar Gateway in orbit and the Artemis Base Camp to the lunar surface.
Orion is NASA's new human-rated exploration-class spaceship that will take astronauts into deep space, including the Moon and Mars.
You can catch the full event via NASA Live (see below).