NASA has confirmed that a critical rocket test that took place this weekend had to fail. The test, according to the space agency, was supposed to last roughly eight minutes. But it was short-lived, ending in less than a minute due to technical failures.
According to the reports, the test was supposed to be a critical stage in NASA’s efforts to develop its Space Launch Systems that for some time now have been experiencing lots of delays.
The program is seen as a huge step in the agency’s ability to run the Artemis Program, an ambitious undertaking that will be able to get astronauts to and from the moon.
The test, at face value, looked pretty routine. According to NASA, the aim was to fire up to four rocket engines in the SLS core for eight minutes. But as noted above, it didn’t last that long.
The eight minutes are significant for one reason. If indeed the space agency was to launch people to the moon, it will need the rocket engines to fire for the eight-minute minimum to have any chance of a successful launch. The fact that the engines failed at just a minute tells you that indeed the space agency has a long way to go before it gets this right.
Although the exact cause of the failure remains unknown, engineers at NASA suspect that it may have been caused by complications around the thermal protection blanket on the engine.
Nonetheless, Jon Shannon, head of this program, confirmed in a press statement that the agency is looking at all engineering data just to see what may have caused the issue.
So far, it is believed that the data was gathered through 1,400 sensors attached to the engines. But there are still those who believe that the short-lived test may provide very little helpful information. However, even with that, no data is useless.
Even though NASA was not able to get more time to monitor the engines, the fact that it got 250 seconds will give the space agency time to look at key test data and gain insightful conclusions on how to do this better next time.
NASA Administrator Bridenstine admitted that indeed not “everything went according to script today.” He added though that he had complete confidence in the engineering team and its ability to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it in the future.
After all, it’s not the first time NASA has run into issues during tests. This is part and parcel of the process the agency follows in developing new technology for space exploration.
But every failure does indeed put a heavy cost burden and therefore a strain on its budget. The SLS program that hopes to land a man on the moon has been under development for years. Initially, the plan was to have it up and running by 2017 but several delays have pushed it back.
The hope is that the rockets being developed under the program will be ready to debut later this year. But more could still happen in between.