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As NASA begins assembling the boosters for the agency’s Space Launch System rocket that will power the first Artemis mission to the Moon, teams in Utah are evaluating materials and processes to improve rocket boosters for missions after Artemis III.

NASA completed a full-scale booster test for the SLS rocket in Promontory, Utah, on Sept. 2. NASA and Northrop Grumman, the SLS booster lead contractor, will use data from the test to evaluate the motor’s performance using potential new materials and processes that can be incorporated into future boosters. NASA has a contract with Northrop Grumman to build boosters for future rocket flights.

“Landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon is just the beginning of NASA’s Artemis program,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “The SLS flight support booster firing is a crucial part of sustaining missions to the Moon. NASA’s goal is to take what we learn living and working on the Moon and use it to send humans on the first missions to Mars.”

For a little over two minutes – the same amount of time that the boosters power the SLS rocket during liftoff and flight for each Artemis mission – the five-segment flight support booster fired in the Utah desert, producing more than 3.5 million pounds of thrust.

NASA and Northrop Grumman have previously completed three development motor tests and two qualification motor tests. The Flight Support Booster-1 builds on prior tests with the introduction of propellant ingredients from new suppliers for boosters on SLS rockets to support flights after Artemis III.

“NASA is simultaneously making progress on assembling and manufacturing the solid rocket boosters for the first three Artemis missions and looking ahead toward missions beyond the initial Moon landing,” John Honeycutt, SLS Program manager at Marshall Space Flight Center, said. “Today marks the first flight support booster test to confirm the rocket motor’s performance using potential new materials for Artemis IV and beyond.”

The SLS boosters are the largest, most powerful boosters ever built for flight. The flight support booster used in the test is the same size and has the same power as the flight version of a five-segment solid rocket booster used for NASA’s Artemis missions. The Artemis I boosters are being prepared for launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

“This flight support booster test is the first motor firing NASA and Northrop Grumman have completed since qualifying the booster design for the Space Launch System rocket,” Bruce Tiller, SLS Boosters Office manager at Marshall, said. “Full-scale booster tests are rare, so NASA tries to test multiple objectives at one time so we are highly confident that any changes we make to the boosters will still enable them to perform as expected on launch day.”

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