The first Artemis mission still has to wait

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was scheduled to launch the first Artemis mission in November, but won’t take off until next year, according to NASA sources.

The SLS is a new super-heavy launcher developed by NASA that will be responsible for sending the next crew to the moon, and why not to Mars later. Its first flight is usually scheduled for next November as part of the Artemis 1 mission, which aims to send an uncrewed Orion capsule around the moon.

Publicly, NASA is still sticking to that deadline.It may move to next summer, unofficially Ars – Audio-Technicaciting NASA sources.

more tests

A few weeks ago, technicians and engineers completed the stacking of the SLS rocket and integrated the side boosters into the structure. A payload is then placed on top of the rocket to simulate the presence of the Orion spacecraft. Currently, NASA and its contractors are conducting launcher vibration testing (modal testing). These aim to better understand the difference between the natural vibrations produced by the rocket itself and those caused by external forces. The collected data will be fed into the flight software.

The tests, which were supposed to end in July, are still taking place at the Kennedy Space Center (FL) Assembly Building, according to Kathryn Hambleton of the agency’s public relations department. In other words, NASA will soon be two months behind its original goal, and more tests are planned.

Once these vibration tests are complete, the mass simulator will be removed from the rocket and replaced by the actual Orion spacecraft. The entire structure will then be airlifted to the Cape Canaveral launch pad for “wet rehearsal.” In this test, the rocket will be loaded with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and part of the actual countdown will be simulated. On the other hand, the motor of the vehicle is not triggered. The test may take place in November or December.

The first stage (core stage) before SLS assembly.Credits: Tyler Martin/NASA Marshall

not before spring

The vehicle will then be taken back to the assembly building for final inspection. Assuming all goes according to plan, the SLS rocket can now launch early next year. On the other hand, if the wet rehearsal tests reveal any new issues, the launch could be delayed until next summer. A schedule update will be provided after the mode tests and Orion is stacked on top of the rocket.

The Artemis I mission is not expected to launch in 2021. Therefore, we should expect the rest of the calendar to be delayed as well. The Artemis II mission is to send the first astronauts from the Apollo missions to orbit the moon, so it won’t take place in 2022, but it may take place in 2023/2024. The Artemis III mission, which will once again see humans set foot on our satellite, will be scheduled by then, but not before 2025.

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