Now That is a Big Rocket. Space Launch System Rolls out to the Launch pad for a Series of Tests

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.

Artemis on the move. Credit: Alan Walters for Universe Today.

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.

The Moon is seen rising behind NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard atop a mobile launcher as it rolls out to Launch Complex 39B for the first time, Thursday, March 17, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani).

“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.”

Artemis on the move. Credit: Alan Walters for Universe Today.

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.

The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft head out from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Alan Walters for Universe Today.

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.

The maps of the Artemis 1 test flight. Click here for a larger version. Credit: NASA

NASA said they will review data from the launchpad tests before setting a specific target launch date for the Artemis I launch.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher as it rolls out of High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building for the first time to Launch Complex 39B, Thursday, March 17, 2022. Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at and and Instagram at and

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