NASA tests its heading-for-Mars rocket engine

A NASA engine test in July pushed the power limits to 109 percent of expected capacity.

NASA hot-fired an RS-25 engine on Thursday, one of four that will power the core stage of the agency’s new Space Launch System and carry the agency’s Orion crew capsule as part of a future journey to Mars and other deep space destinations.

The test, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, is part of a series designed to put the upgraded former space shuttle main engines through the rigorous temperature and pressure conditions they will experience during a launch.

The tests also support the development of a new controller, or “brain,” for the engine, which monitors engine status and communicates between the vehicle and the engine, relaying commands to the engine and transmitting data back to the vehicle. The controller also provides closed-loop management of the engine by regulating the thrust and fuel mixture ratio while monitoring the engine’s health and status.

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