NASA successfully tested the first deep space RS-25 rocket engine for 500 seconds March 10 at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, a major milestone in the next great era of space exploration.
The next time engine rocket engine No. 2059 fires for that length of time, it will be carrying humans on their first deep-space mission in more than 45 years.
"We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars," said Rick Gilbrech, director of Stennis Space Center, "and this test is a very big step in that direction."
The hot fire marked the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA's new Space Launch System, being built to carry humans on future deep-space missions, including an asteroid and Mars.
Four RS-25 engines will help power the SLS core stage. RS-25 engine No. 2059 and two other flight engines, scheduled for testing at Stennis in the coming months, will launch SLS for the first Orion crewed mission, known as Exploration Mission-2. That mission is expected to carry four astronauts into lunar orbit to test key elements of the spacecraft.
It will mark the first American flight to carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.