When NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launches the agency’s Orion deep-space crew capsule for the first time in late 2018, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in America’s human spaceflight efforts, aiming for destinations beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO) for the first time in four decades by employing the largest and most powerful launch vehicle mankind has ever created. The colossal skyscraper-size SLS will thunder toward space on the power of four former (upgraded) liquid-fueled space shuttle RS-25 engines, but even with a combined thrust of nearly 2.5 million pounds those four engines alone won’t be enough to provide the 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity the initial SLS configuration promises.

The rocket needs more power at launch to make NASA’s ambitious deep-space human exploration plans a reality, and on March 11, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. MDT Orbital ATK ignited the largest and most powerful solid rocket booster in the world for a test fire to help get the job done / Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1). 

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