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NASA's 'most powerful rocket' ready for testing at Stennis Space Center

Testing will take place over several months and will culminate with an eight-minute hot fire of the rocket's four engines as during an actual launch.

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss — The "most powerful rocket in the world," which will return humans to deep space, is ready for testing in south Mississippi.

NASA says the New Orleans built Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was installed Wednesday at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The rocket will soon begin tests before its maiden Artemis I flight.

The agency said that testing will take place over several months and will culminate with an eight-minute hot fire of the rocket's four engines as during an actual launch.

“This critical test series will demonstrate the rocket’s core stage propulsion system is ready for launch on missions to deep space,” Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech said. “The countdown to this nation’s next great era of space exploration is moving ahead.”

The SLS rocket is a crucial part of the Artemis space program. It will launch the Orion spacecraft with crew and cargo to the moon and beyond.

Budget permitting, NASA has committed to as many as 10 Artemis missions. Artemis I will be an unmanned test flight of the rocket and the Orion spacecraft in 2020. Artemis II will carry astronauts into lunar orbit and Artemis III will bring the first woman and another man to the surface of the moon in 2024.

“Delivering the Space Launch System rocket core stage to Stennis for testing is an epic historical milestone,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS stages manager. “My team looks forward to bringing this flight hardware to life and conducting this vital test that will demonstrate the ability to provide 2 million pounds of thrust to send the Artemis I mission to space.” 

The completed core stage with four RS-25 engines is the largest rocket stage NASA has built since the Saturn V stages for the Apollo Program.

The SLS was transported from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East by barge. It arrived at Stennis Space Center on Jan. 12.

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