Watch NASA's Deep Space Engine Roar To Life In Test-Fire

Full steam ahead for Mars

Mankind could leave its first footprints on Mars sometime in the 2030s. And if we want to get there, we’re gonna need a new ride. That’s why NASA’s building the Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy lift vehicle that’s intended, eventually, to carry astronauts into deep space.

To get us there, NASA is trying out a souped-up version of the space shuttle engine, and they just took one for a test-drive today. At the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the RS-25 engine burned for 9 minutes--or about as long as the engines would fire during a real launch--roaring and spitting flames and steam like a caged dragon. It was pretty epic.

The burn went off with out a hitch, and the team noted no anomalies--though they'll be sifting through the data for at least another week.

When the SLS launches in 2018 (hopefully), its main rocket booster will be powered by four RS-25 engines. Whereas the shuttle version of the RS-25 packed 491 thousand pounds of thrust, the upgraded SLS version reaches 512 thousand pounds, providing more power to bring humans and cargo far beyond the International Space Station.

Update, 8/13/2015 at 5:30pm EDT: This post was updated after the test.

*Correction, 8/14 at 11:55am EDT: The original post mistakenly stated the Stennis Space Center is in Missouri. The correct location is Mississippi.