When will NASA’s juggernaut fly to the moon?

NASA once again had to delay the launch of its new super-heavy (and super-expensive) SLS launch vehicle, this time for the next Artemis 1 moon landing mission, this time because of testing issues. When will this takeoff finally materialize?

SLS is currently undergoing comprehensive testing in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. These tests take place ahead of the yet-to-be-scheduled wet rehearsal, during which propellant will be added to the rocket’s fuel tanks. A successful rehearsal, in turn, will set the stage for an actual launch: the long-awaited Artemis 1 mission, during which an unmanned Orion capsule will orbit the moon and return to Earth.

When will this mission be available?Initially, its launch was Scheduled for November 2021. Development delays forced NASA to push back this deadline. Last October, the SLS should be able to take off by mid-February. Finally, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see this behemoth take off in the Florida skies.

New problem detected

During the integrated tests, engineers ensured that the Orion spacecraft, core stage and two booster rockets communicated correctly with ground systems.In a recent center stage power test, they still A problem has been detected with the flight controller of one of the RS-25 motors.

The flight controller acts as the “brain” of each RS-25 engine, communicating with the SLS rocket to provide precise engine control as well as internal health diagnostics“, thus describing NASA.” Each controller is equipped with two channels to have a backup channel when launching or climbing in case one of the channels has a problem.In a recent test, the B channel of the motor controller four was not always on“.

Schematic of the SLS in Earth orbit.Credit: NASA

Spring conference

After detecting the problem, engineers conducted additional checks. They finally decided to replace the faulty motor controller. This new “event” forced NASA to delay the launch of its huge rocket yet again.The two windows based on the alignment of the moon with the earth would be Offered in March and AprilA later wet rehearsal will mark a milestone, after which NASA will provide a specific launch date. Then everything will depend on the weather.

The purpose of the flight was to test the safety of the Orion vehicle. During the Artemis-2 mission, a crew of four will make a similar trip around the moon. As part of the Artemis 3 mission, NASA hopes to bring astronauts back to the lunar surface. after 2025. This will be the first time since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. SLS will then fly to the moon for at least a decade. Each of these flights will cost about $2 billion.

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