NASA has been testing one of the engines of its Space Launch System (SLS), which will one day carry humans to Mars – and boy, is it a sight to behold.
The world’s most powerful rocket will be propelled into space by four RS-25 engines, each producing 512,000 pounds of thrust.
The space agency has released a 360-degree video of a “hot-fire test” of one of these engines, which took place at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on February 22.
Cameras were set up at several different locations around the test site, including near the flame trench, where the extreme force of smoke and water literally covers the camera.
The test took a total of 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The video above shows the edited highlights. You can click and drag the video around to view it in 360 degrees.
The liquid-fuelled RS-25 pumps out hot gases at 13 times the speed of sound.
The four RS-25 engines, together with the solid rocket boosters that will accompany the final rocket, give the SLS 8.8 million pounds of thrust – 15% more than the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo programme.
When the rocket is launched, the engines will fire non-stop for about 8.5 minutes, propelling the Orion capsule into orbit.
The SLS was originally scheduled to launch this year, but has suffered numerous delays and is likely to come in way over budget.
A full launch test for the SLS isn’t scheduled until 2018, but NASA has been testing various components in the meantime.
In 2015, it released a video of a 177-feet-long rocket booster belching out a huge jet of flames and smoke as it was tested in the Utah desert.
By 2023, NASA hopes to be sending the SLS and Orion to space once a year.
Note: 360 video does not work in all formats.