The flight will mark the first launch of the agency’s largest space launch system rocket, a significant milestone in the Artemis campaign to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
Given the complexity of the vehicles and the fact that NASA has never launched an SLS rocket before, NASA emphasized that launch dates at Kennedy Space Center in Florida are tentative and subject to change.
NASA made several attempts earlier this year to conduct a fueling and simulated countdown test of the SLS rocket, known as a wet dress rehearsal. When the rocket was loaded with 700,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, engineers discovered a series of problems, including hydrogen leakage This prevented NASA from completing the test count. As a result, NASA was forced to roll the rocket back from the launch pad to its assembly building for repairs and additional testing.
However, officials said it was completed Test enough to proceed with launch effort. On Wednesday, space agency officials said everything was going well.
The mission, known as Artemis I, will send the Orion crew capsule into orbit around the moon for six weeks, allowing the agency to test a series of systems before putting astronauts aboard.
One of the main objectives of the flight was to test the Orion heat shield, said Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager. The heat shield is intended to protect Orion and any future crew from the extreme temperatures it will encounter when it enters Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 mph, or Mach 32. That temperature can reach “half the height of the Sun,” Sarafin said.
NASA will test the spacecraft’s navigation systems, its ability to use power derived from its solar arrays, and its resilience when traveling through highly irradiated regions. Three mannequins will be fitted with sensors to determine how the astronauts will travel on the flight. Sarafin said the spacecraft will be recovered by another test after it splashes into the ocean.
NASA is not trying to send a spacecraft designed to fly humans Moon in 50 yearsProblems are expected, Sarafin said, but “our team is prepared to adapt along the way.”
If the Artemis I mission goes as planned, NASA plans to fly a similar mission called Artemis II with astronauts. A human lander called Artemis III could arrive as early as 2025, according to NASA.
If NASA decides to proceed with the Aug. 29 Artemis I launch, it will roll the SLS rocket from its assembly building to the launch pad on Aug. 18.
“We think we’re on a good path to going [launch] efforts in those days,” said NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free. But he reminded reporters that the astronauts’ families coming to watch the launch should “plan a seven-day vacation to Florida, and watch the launch there, too.”
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