Boeing Moon Rocket Passes NASA Test

Four Boeing rocket engines ran for eight minutes, passing a key NASA test. It paves the way for an uncrewed lunar mission planned for November and eventual return to the moon with astronauts. Photo: Robert Markowitz/NASA/AFP/Getty Image

NASA’s plans for a lunar mission this year remain on track after it said a deep-space rocket made by Boeing Co. BA -2.86% passed a key engine test on Thursday.

The eight-minute ground test of the Space Launch System engines at a National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility in Mississippi followed an unsuccessful run in January that jeopardized the agency’s broader target of returning U.S astronauts to the moon by the middle of the decade.

The four engines previously used in the space shuttle program ran for the planned eight minutes during the latest test, twice as long as NASA said it needed to secure enough data for a live rocket launch. During January’s run, they stayed on for little over a minute.

The test provides a boost for Boeing’s space program, which has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years. It is also a fillip for the program as the Biden administration reviews NASA priorities and its targets for missions to the moon and into deep space.

After years of cost overruns, errors and delays, Boeing’s space program is facing a major test: Later this year it will likely make its second attempt to launch its Starliner crew capsule to the International Space Station. WSJ looks at the company’s path to this crucial moment, and what’s riding on the test flight’s success. Illustration: Alex Kuzoian/WSJ

NASA aims to use the SLS rocket for its first planned moon mission, known as Artemis 1, in November. This would fly around the moon before returning its capsule, which won’t have a crew, to Earth. That schedule remains in flux, and NASA expects to review it in the coming weeks after the latest test.

Boeing is the prime contractor on the SLS program. Its rocket and engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. will now be moved to Kennedy Space Center in Florida next month to be attached to the Orion crew capsule built by Lockheed Martin Corp. and giant boosters made by Northrop Grumman Corp.

Write to Doug Cameron at

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Appeared in the March 19, 2021, print edition as ‘Boeing Rocket Clears Key NASA Hurdle.’


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