What 20,000,000HP engine can deliver 3.6 millions pounds of trust in a howling vomit from hell? Answer: The Ares's first stage. Maybe not as hot as 5-mile pyroclastic plumes burning holes in the atmosphere, but hot enough.

The first stage of the Ares I rocket—a five-segment solid engine developed mainly by ATK Space Systems and NASA—was successfully tested today in Utah's desert, scorching the land during two minutes while 650 sensors evaluated its performance. According to Alex Priskos—first stage manager for the Ares Projects at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama—the test was a success:

With this test, we have taken lessons learned from many years of experience in solid rocket motor development and have built on that foundation. Our team collected data from 650 sensors today to evaluate the motor's performance. This test and those that follow are essential to understanding as many aspects of our motor as possible, including strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately delivering the safest and most reliable motor possible.

There is another test planned for summer 2010. Hopefully, as we don't know yet what will really happen to the Ares program. [NASA]