Page last updated at 22:16 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 23:16 UK

Test ignition for 'Moon rocket'


The static test lasting just over two minutes took place at manufacturer ATK's Utah facility

The test firing has been completed of a new first-stage rocket motor that could one day help take US astronauts back to the surface of the Moon.

The five-segment booster is intended to power the early flight phase of Nasa's proposed Ares 1 launch vehicle - its replacement for the space shuttle.

The static test lasting just over two minutes took place at manufacturer ATK's Utah facility.

It was watched by 4,000 people and covered live on US TV.

There is currently some uncertainty over whether the Ares 1 rocket will ever fly.

This week, a panel convened by the White House to review human spaceflight plans said the rocket programme was not viable under the US space agency's present funding.

The group, led by former aerospace executive Norm Augustine, has given President Barack Obama a series of options to help him shape the US space agency's future.

Most of the options would cancel the Ares 1.

Nasa has already spent close to $8bn on its post-shuttle activities which go under the name Constellation.

The work has already resulted in the construction of a demonstrator rocket. The Ares 1-X is stacked and ready to fly at the Kennedy Space Center.

Its launch, like the test firing in Utah, is designed to gather important performance data for engineers.

President Obama is expected to announce what he intends to do about the Constellation programme in October.

Ares 1 visualisation (Nasa)
The ATK motor would power the early flight phase of the Ares 1

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