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NASA decides not to skip key SLS test after all

Published Jul 28th, 2019 3:01PM EDT
sls green run
Image: NASA

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NASA really, really wants its own rocket. The agency has been shoveling money into a number of programs — including agreements with SpaceX and Boeing to produce crew capsules for manned missions — but above all else it would love for its pricey rocket, the Space Launch System, to reach the finish line.

With delays piling up, NASA had apparently been considering fast-tracking the home stretch of its development by skipping a “Green Run” test of its core engines. Now, after giving it some additional thought, the agency has decided to stick with its original plans.

As Space News reports, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine suggested that the test might not necessarily be needed before the SLS project could push forward. Whatever discussions happened behind the scenes during the months since that last comment seem to have changed things, and an update offered this week reveals that the Green Run will indeed proceed as previously planned.

“The Green Run acceptance test gives NASA the confidence needed to know the new core stage will perform again and again as it is intended,” SLS deputy stages manager Lisa Bates explained in a statement.

Back in March, Bridenstine noted that individual tests of the engines might be suitable, and that the full-stage static fire test might not be necessary. It’s hard to know how much the mandate from the presidential administration of a fast-tracked Moon mission played into that line of thinking, but whoever was pushing for the test to be cancelled seems to have lost that argument.

The test still hasn’t been officially scheduled, which is just another example of how behind NASA and its contractors are on the project, but perhaps we’ll learn more about that in the coming months.