Watch a Giant NASA Rocket Burn in Slow Motion

Fascinating, awe-inspiring…and oddly hypnotic.

byAaron Brown|
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Having a stressful day at the grind? Well, close your email for a few minutes, sit back, and watch three minutes of one of NASA's QM-2 rocket booster blast out fire. For a giant rocket burning fuel at a rate of six tons per's oddly relaxing.

The rocket was being tested by aerospace defense company Orbital ATK for future use as a booster in NASA's upcoming Space Launch System. The SLS, as NASA calls it, will be used to carry equipment and astronauts to deep space, with the potential to bring crews and gear as far as the moon, Mars, or even Saturn. At peak burn, the rocket engine kicks out 3.6 million pounds of thrust—enough to keep an 1,800-ton object hovering in place against Earth's gravity.

The YouTube video, though, doesn't let itself get bogged down in minutiae like tech specs or mission briefs. Instead, it simply shows three soundless minutes of slow-motion footage of the booster rocket being test-fired. Exhaust spews out at hypersonic speeds, and the spacecraft-pusher looks like it's about to shake its way right off the test stand and make an impromptu trip to Mars.

To capture the video, NASA used its High Dynamic Range Stereo X Camera—something The Drive assumes the engineers at the agency are very proud of, since they filled the YouTube description with a couple hundred words about it. According to the write-up, the camera records "dynamic" footage in multiple exposures at the same time, so engineers can go back and examine rocket tests when necessary. (Consider it a super-advanced version of the "structure" adjustment on Instagram.) As a bonus, however, the footage also happens to be very useful for bored workers as a pallet-cleanser before returning to the nightmare that is Microsoft Excel.

The booster will finally be used will be on an actual SLS test flight sometime in late 2018, when NASA launches the Orion spacecraft.

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