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Artemis I: NASA’s race against time to assemble SLS Moon Rocket

Posted by Pierre-Henri Le Besnerais on May 20, 2021 12:35:29 PM

Two months after the successful second static-fire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the last element of the 98 meter tall rocket arrived at the Kennedy Space Centre (KSC), where the final preparations for the launch of the Artemis I mission will take place.

SLS readies for flight despite lengthy delays

On the 18th of March, the core stage and its four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines officially completed the Green Run test campaign at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. After long delays caused by weather and technical issues, the vehicle was refurbished and prepared for its long-awaited shipment to the KSC. On April 27th, the core stage finally arrived in Florida aboard Pegasus, a 94 meter long barge modified to transport the 60 meter tall core stage.

Preparing the core stage for lift operations

Two days later, the massive liquid fuel booster was carefully transferred into the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), in the hands of KSC’s Exploration Ground Systems and NASA’s service contractor Jacobs. The largest rocket booster in the world is still resting in its horizontal shipping position, waiting to receive the first components of its flight termination system. The SLS core stage thermal protection will also be repaired before being stacked with the two solid rocket boosters already in place on the Mobile Launcher.

Artemis I: The long path to the pad

With the delivery of the SLS core stage, all the vehicle components of NASA’s backbone for future deep Space exploration missions are now ready to be assembled. Considering this will be a first time process at the KSC, NASA is expecting to encounter new obstacles with the Artemis program already facing a challenging schedule. Moreover, a minimum of six months of work is anticipated to complete the integration of the Orion capsule and test the fully-stacked rocket.

Initially scheduled to launch before the end of the year, the Artemis I mission will test the Orion Spacecraft and SLS as an integrated system and send the uncrewed capsule with 13 CubeSats to a lunar orbit, paving the way for landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.

Topics: Space

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