A 500-second test-firing of NASA's first new rocket engine for human space exploration since the 1970s was an apparent success today.
Mounted in a test stand at Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., the J2-X engine ignited a little after 4 p.m. today and ran without apparent problem for about eight minutes and 20 seconds.
A continuous whoosh of bright white exhaust -- the byproduct of igniting about 130,000 pounds of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen -- gushed out of the test stand.
A team of test engineers, many wearing loud-and-proud Hawaiian shirts, were glued to computer consoles in a nearby control center.
A post-test news briefing is scheduled for 5 p.m. EST. Click the NASA TV box on the right to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.
A derivative of the engine that powered the Saturn V moon rocket, the J2-X was intended to power the second stages of the Ares I and Ares V rockets being developed for Project Constellation, a return-to-the-moon program cancelled by the Obama Administration.
NASA now plans to use the engine as the heart of the propulsion system for the second stage of the Space Launch System, a heavy-lift launch vehicle being developed for human expeditions beyond Earth orbit.