Big rocket go now! NASA tests largest, most powerful rocket booster ever built

12 Mar 2015

At the Orbital ATK test facility, the booster for NASA's Space Launch System rocket was fired for a two minute test. Image via NASA

In a bid to blast human beings further into space, US space agency NASA has successfully tested its latest, largest and most powerful rocket booster ever and managed to capture the action on video.

Firing for two minutes, the booster which, if given final approval, will be attached to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft and will contribute significantly to astronauts one day setting foot on the surface of Mars and even asteroids.

Producing about 1.4m kg of thrust, the booster had been gradually heated over the space of a few months to reach a temperature of 32°C, to verify its performance at the highest end of the booster’s accepted propellant temperature range.

Likewise, a cold-temperature test, at a target of 4°C, the low end of the propellant temperature range, is planned for early 2016.

According to NASA, more than 531 instrumentation channels on the booster were measured during the test to see if it passed 102 different tests set by NASA’s engineers.

The test also demonstrated that the booster met all its requirements in terms of thrust and pressure, which will need to provide 75pc of the Orion craft’s ability to leave the gravitational pull of the Earth.

For future missions, the first flight test of SLS will be configured for a 77-tonne lift capacity and will carry an unmanned Orion beyond low-Earth orbit to see how it performs. The SLS will later be configured to provide an unprecedented lift capability of 143 tonnes to enable missions farther into our solar system.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic