NASA Says SLS Green Run Test is a Go

NASA Says SLS Green Run Test is a Go

NASA announced today that yes, it will conduct a Green Run test of the Space Launch System (SLS).  The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) and others have been urging NASA to conduct the test even though the process takes many months.  NASA is anxious to get SLS flying so it can meet the White House’s directive to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 and was considering skipping the test or performing an abbreviated version of it.

The test will take place at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  All four RS-25 engines will be installed in the 212-foot long SLS core stage and mounted onto an enormous test stand.  The engines then will be fired, producing 2 million pounds of thrust, for the full 8 minutes they will need to operate when launching into space.

Artist’s illustration of the SLS on its launch pad at night. The core stage is orange. Credit: NASA

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine dismissed the head of NASA’s human spaceflight program, Bill Gerstenmaier, and his deputy for SLS and the Orion spacecraft, Bill Hill, two weeks ago.  He had said he would wait until their successors were in place to make a decision about the Green Run test, but apparently changed his mind.  He tweeted the news today, laying out the reasons for the decision to proceed accompanied by a photo of the Stennis test stand where the Green Run will take place. NASA explains that “green” refers to the fact that the hardware is new.

Two members of Congress who are key to authorizing and funding NASA are from Mississippi and both tweeted their delight at the decision.  Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) chairs the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that oversees NASA.  Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) is a member of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee that funds NASA.


When NASA began considering skipping the test to speed up the SLS schedule, which has been slipping year after year, ASAP emphatically urged the agency not to do that.  ASAP Chair Patricia Sanders insisted no other test would gather the data needed to ensure safe operation.  “This is no time to jeopardize the program by introducing unwarranted risk.”  The panel doubled down on that advice two months later. Sanders also submitted a written statement to the Senate Commerce Committee for a hearing last week where she said again that the Green Run test will provide one of the “critical data sets” needed to ensure safety.

ASAP was created by Congress following the 1967 Apollo 204 fire that took the lives of astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.  It is a NASA advisory panel, but because of its origins, reports both to the NASA Administrator and Congress.  It advises NASA on anything affecting safety at the agency.


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