Touted as the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built, the Space Launch System (SLS) is all set for its final ‘hot fire’ engine test this Sunday. The rocket will one day take astronauts to the Moon and beyond, into deep space. In the final test before an uncrewed test flight later this year, the four giant engines will be bolted to the ground when fired. SLS will be the mainstay of the Artemis space programme that aims at landing the first woman on the Moon in 2024 and taking humans to Mars in the next decade.
The SLS is 322 feet tall, about 40 feet shorter than the Saturn V rockets that carried astronauts to the Moons in the 1960s and 1970s. But it’s way more powerful, with 15 per cent more thrust during lift-off and its upward journey. The rocket can carry over 27 tonnes to the Moon. Built at a cost of $18 billion, the SLS can reach speeds equivalent to Mach 23, that’s 17,600 plus miles per hour.