RS-25 Engines Powered to Highest Level Ever During Stennis Test
Operators powered one of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) engines up to 113 percent thrust level, the highest RS-25 power level yet achieved, during a test on Feb. 21 at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The test lasted 260 seconds with power levels at 113 percent for 50 seconds of the test. NASA has been using the stand since January 2015 to test RS-25 engines for use on its new SLS rocket. RS-25 engines are former space shuttle main engines, which were designed more than 40 years ago to provide a specific power level, categorized as 100 percent thrust. Through the years, the engines were modified to provide additional thrust to 109 percent of its original designated level. For the larger, heavier SLS rocket, the engines are being modified again to operate at 111 percent of their original power level. Increased engine performance is crucial for enabling SLS missions to deep space as the rocket evolves to be larger and carry astronauts and heavy cargo on a single flight. The SLS rocket was designed for missions beyond low-Earth orbit carrying crew and cargo to the moon or beyond.
In addition to testing RS-25 engines and flight controllers at Stennis, NASA is preparing to test the actual SLS core stage for the EM-1 mission at the south Mississippi site. The testing will involve installing the flight stage on the B-2 Test Stand and firing all four of its RS-25 engines simultaneously, as during a launch. RS-25 tests at Stennis are conducted by a team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services engineers and operators. Aerojet Rocketdyne is the RS-25 prime contractor. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.