Under the full Moon, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket rolled out to the launchpad for the first time. The journey began at the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, with the gigantic stack of the mega rocket arriving at Launch Pad 39B in preparation for a series of final checkouts before its Artemis I test flight.
The four-mile trip for SLS and the Orion spacecraft, on top of the crawler-transporter took 10 hours and 28 minutes, and the 3.5-million-pound rocket and spacecraft arrived at the pad at 4:15 a.m. on March 18.
The upcoming final test, known as the wet dress rehearsal, will run the Artemis I launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain the tanks to practice the timelines and procedures the team will use for launch.
“Rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building is an iconic moment for this rocket and spacecraft, and this is a key milestone for NASA,” said Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Common Exploration Systems Development.“Now at the pad for the first time, we will use the integrated systems to practice the launch countdown and load the rocket with the propellants it needs to send Orion on a lunar journey in preparation for launch.”
After the tests at the launchpad, SLS will be rolled back to the VAB for final tune-ups before rolling out again for the first launch of Artemis.
A firm date has not yet been set for the Artemis I test flight, but it will be an uncrewed mission. It will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
During this flight, the Orion spacecraft will travel thousands of kilometers/miles beyond the Moon, farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown, over the course of about a three-week mission.
NASA said they will review data from the launchpad tests before setting a specific target launch date for the Artemis I launch.