The US Space Agency has spent a significant amount of time designing, developing, building and testing the Space Launch System rocket. When NASA created the rocket program in 2010, US lawmakers said the boosted SLS should be ready for launch in 2016.
Of course, this launch target and many others have come and gone. But now, after more than a decade and more than $20 billion in funding, NASA and its group of contractors are close to declaring the 111-meter rocket ready for its first launch.
On June 20, NASA successfully Missile count to T-29 seconds During the pre-launch refueling test. Although it did not reach the T-9 seconds, as the original goal had been, agency engineers collected enough data to satisfy the information needed to proceed to launch.
During two press conferences last week, NASA officials declined to specify a mission launch target. However, in an interview Tuesday with Ars, NASA’s senior exploration officer, Jim Frey, said the agency is working toward a launch window from August 23 to September 6.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Frey said. “We would be foolish not to target that now. We made amazing progress last week.”
Next is returning the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center for final launch preparations, including arming the flight termination system. A team of technicians and engineers will also replace the seal on the “quick disconnect” where hydrogen leakage was observed while loading the fuel.
Free said that decline could begin as early as Thursday, and workers have laid out their plans to tackle the car during a relatively quick turnaround. “That group knows exactly what they have to do when we get back,” he said. “I don’t think we’re expanding ourselves to get there. We might push ourselves a little bit, but we wouldn’t do anything stupid.” In this timeline, the SLS could return to the launch pad in as little as two months.
This Artemis I mission will not carry any humans on board, but rather will serve as a test flight for the massive rocket, the largest that NASA has built since the Saturn V rocket that the agency used to fly in the Apollo program. A second mission, Artemis II, will transport a crew of four astronauts around the moon. It likely won’t happen before 2025. The first human landing on the moon, Artemis III, will likely happen a year or two after the successful completion of Artemis 2.
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