We’re going to need a bigger rocket to get us to Mars, and NASA has just fired up the largest one ever built and taken it for a test run.
NASA tested the Space Launch System (SLS) QM-1 rocket in Utah on March 11 by laying it over on its side and firing it off. Officials say the massive, fiery test was “really clean,” and they saw a “really nice result” from the early data collected during the test. According to Space, the rocket put out 3.6 million pounds of thrust, which equals a greater force than 14 four-engine Boeing 747 jetliners at full takeoff power. Whoa.
Orbital ATK general manager Charles Precourt, whose company helped develop the tech, had this to say about the apparent success:
“It is a big day for us, the culmination of many years of experience work during the space shuttle program that will transition now to the SLS. The real success is collecting the information that we need to go further to be able to put [a] crew on the vehicle in a few years…
The biggest change is that we added a segment, which is 25 percent more propellant for way more performance. The typical shuttle booster would give you about three million pounds, this is a little over 3.5 million pounds of thrust, so it's the kind of performance we need to get our exploration journey to Mars off the ground.”
NASA envisions the SLS program as the rockets that’ll eventually propel astronauts into deep space, including eventual manned missions to Mars in 2030. The first real-life flight is set for 2018, when the SLS will carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-earth orbit.
Wouldn’t you want to be strapped to the top of this thing in a tiny spacecraft?