A NASA mission is testing solar-power technology that could be used to power future spacecraft.
The Space Launch System rocket, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Sierra Nevada Corp., is a prototype for a future space exploration mission.
It is set to be launched aboard the Atlas V rocket sometime in the 2020s.
A solar-electric propulsion system would be used on the spacecraft to keep it fueled during a deep space mission.
The system would also use electricity from solar panels to power the rocket and other elements of the spacecraft.
A NASA spokesman said Wednesday that the tests are being conducted at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The space agency is hoping to eventually launch a crewed spacecraft to the moon or Mars, which are much farther away.
It has not announced when the test program will begin.
The test program would also test the solar-system spacecraft and the propulsion system.
It would be the first time that solar-based technology has been used in space.
NASA is working with Lockheed Martin and Sierra Corp. to develop a solar-reusable spacecraft to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by 2025.
The first test flight is set for this month.
The mission would be a Mars-bound demonstration flight, according to a NASA statement.
The flight would use an Atlas V Heavy rocket to launch an unmanned Orion spacecraft to Mars.
The Orion spacecraft would fly to Mars from Cape Kennedy, Florida.
The launch would be carried out by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.