No, seriously, NASA’s Space Launch System is ready to fly

Zoom in / NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, reflected in the Turn Basin at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, takes off for the fourth attempt at a wet suit rehearsal on June 6, 2022.

Trevor Mahlman

It’s really happening. NASA is finally about to launch its massive Space Launch System rocket, and barring disaster, Orion The spaceship is going to fly to the moon and back.

The space agency’s final pre-launch preparations for this Artemis I mission are well underway, and in fact, NASA plans to send the rocket to Launch Pad 39B on Tuesday, August 16 at 9 p.m. ET (01:00 UTC). Wednesday). This is two days earlier than the previously announced release schedule.

This earlier date for the launch of the rocket follows the completion of a launch system test over the weekend. It was the final major test of the launch system and spacecraft. NASA is targeting three consecutive launch dates for Artemis I: August 29, September 2 and September 5.

The flight suspension system is an isolated component of the rocket. If a problem occurs during liftoff, ground-based controllers can send a signal to the aircraft’s termination system and the rocket can fly off course and destroy it before it threatens a populated area.

Because this termination system is separate from the rocket, it has an independent power supply that is only rated for about three weeks. This range is determined by the US Space Force, which operates the East Range, including the Kennedy Space Center. NASA’s problem is that one of its proposed launch dates, September 5, is outside this recommended range.

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however, NASA said It received an extension from Space Launch Delta 45 on a check of the flight termination system before being tested again 20 to 25 days earlier. The discount will be valid throughout the Artemis I launch attempts, NASA said. However, if the mission fails to launch in one of these three attempts due to weather, technical failure, or other reasons for scrubbing, the rocket must be rolled back to the vehicle assembly building to work on the flight termination system.

Each of the three upcoming launch opportunities will allow for a “long-class” mission for the Orion spacecraft, which will fly in lunar orbit for several weeks before returning to Earth and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Assignments range from 39 to 42 days.

The Artemis I mission represents a significant step forward for NASA and its ambitions for a deep space human exploration program. The rocket’s next launch will carry four astronauts around the moon, and its third launch is planned to enable a human landing in the mid-2020s.

The SLS rocket program has often been criticized for its extensive delays and price tag of more than $20 billion. But with a successful launch in just a few weeks, the space agency could put at least one of these criticisms to rest, allowing the massive rocket to function as intended.

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