NASA is edging closer to sending a spacecraft around the Moon, and it’s about to conduct a crucial test to ensure that mission goes forward. As Reuters reports, the agency is conducting a hot fire test for the Space Launch System’s rocket core stage at 5PM Eastern, with coverage available on NASA TV starting at 4:20PM. You can also expect a press conference roughly two hours later to discuss the outcome.
This is the first test firing all four of the rocket’s RS-25 engines at once, and the last of the Green Run series ensuring the core stage is ready for the Artemis I mission sending an Orion spacecraft to the Moon. NASA will be much closer to launch if the hot fire goes well.
SLS is also poised to be one of the most capable platforms. One mission can carry payloads that might require two or more launches even for SpaceX’s upcoming Starship, let alone existing options. That could save NASA money, and greatly simplifies some missions. It’s just a question of how often you’ll see SLS in action — with the incoming Biden administration expected to delay the Artemis program, it might not get as much use as planned.