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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shared new footage of its Space Launch System (SLS) 'mega Moon rocket' that shows the rocket's solid boosters separating at an eye popping speed of 4,000 miles per hour during its journey of powering the Orion spacecraft to lunar orbit. SLS is the world's most powerful rocket, and the November flight took place after several launch aborts and a hurricane prevented NASA from flying what it dubs as a 'long class' mission. The Orion is currently orbiting the Moon, and it will soon be on its way back to Earth, after completing the journey that saw it set a new record for the longest distance that a crew-capable spacecraft has flown from Earth.
NASA's SLS Rocket Delivers Payload With A Less Than 0.3% Error Reveals Agency
Prior to liftoff, engineers battled with the rocket's tricky hydrogen fuel as one leak or another kept them on their toes and forced them to make last minute repairs to the rocket. However, the SLS was quite durable, as it performed its mission flawlessly even when left outside during a storm prior to launch.
Post launch, NASA studied the data to confirm that the rocket had delivered its payload to the right decision and with a minuscule error of 0.3%. This is well within the accepted tolerance range for a 322 feet tall rocket that generates a massive eight million pounds of thrust at liftoff - making it the world's largest operational rocket.
The SLS is powered by two different kinds of engines. The first of these are liquid powered engines that use hydrogen and oxygen to generate to generate 418 thousand pounds of thrust each. Four of these engines are used on the SLS, and they are supplemented by two massive solid rocket boosters that cumulatively generated another 6.5 million pounds of thrust.
While NASA's live feed for the SLS launch did not provide telemetry for the ascent portion of the rocket's journey, the agency did share some statistics earlier this week as it shared the results of the SLS' first post launch performance evaluation. The mission saw the rocket consume 735 thousand gallons of propellant in just eight minutes, with Orion delivered within three miles of its orbital altitude of 735 by 16 nautical miles while it was traveling at a blazing 17,500 miles per hour.
Additionally, NASA also shared footage of the SLS rocket with its two solid rocket boosters separating while the rocket was traveling at 4,000 miles per hour (6,437 kilometers per hour). The agency confirmed that at the time of separation, no problems or anomalies were detected on the boosters, and systems to control their thrust and direction performed as expected
The footage of the separation is similar to the one that SpaceX broadcasted of the Falcon Heavy's flight early last month, with the only difference between the two rockets being that the Falcon Heavy uses liquid engines for the side boosters and recovers them post launch, and the Falcon Heavy was traveling at a much slower 5,279 kilometers per hour at separation.
SLS' stellar performance review comes just as the Orion spacecraft has also exceeded all expectations. In a press conference earlier this week, NASA's Artemis 1 mission manager Mr. Mike Sarafin shared that the spaceship is generating more power than required, and his agency is continually expanding its test objectives to learn as much as it can before Orion makes its way back to Earth.
Orion left the distant retrograde orbit at 3:53 am central time earlier today, and it will soon make another close pass of the Moon that will place it at a distance of only 79 miles from the lunar surface before the ship begins its 'jump' in the Earth's atmosphere to land in the ocean at December 11th.
Here's the complete footage of the Artemis 1 launch: