Final test for new booster rocket

- The Utah desert roared to life during a critical test of the giant booster rocket for NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) this morning.

Orbital ATK, the solid rocket booster manufacturer, conducted a full-duration, two-minute test firing of the giant new booster at their Utah test site.  The test sent smoke and dirt spewing across the desert as an estimated 10,000 people cheered it on.

The new five-segment pencil-shaped white boosters are taller and more powerful than the four-segment boosters used on the now-retired space shuttles.

This was the final planned full-scale test of the new booster rocket, but it won't take flight for a while.  The Exploration Mission 1 flight of the Orion capsule will be the debut mission for SLS and is scheduled for late 2018.

Eventually, NASA plans to use the SLS rocket to send crews beyond Earth orbit, possibly to Mars.  It will be the most powerful rocket in the world.

The booster had been tested successfully once before, in March of 2015.

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