Artemis 1 Probably won't Launch Until August

On March 17th, the Artemis I mission rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VLB) and was transferred to Launch Complex 39B at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first time that a fully-stacked Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft were brought to the launchpad in preparation for a “wet dress rehearsal.” To mark the occasion, NASA released a video of the event that featured a new song by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder (“Invincible”).

Unfortunately, technical issues forced ground controllers to scrub the dress rehearsal repeatedly and return the Artemis I to the VLB on April 26th. This was followed by reports that these issues were addressed and that Artemis I rocket would return to LC 39B by early- to mid-June. Meanwhile, an official NASA statement (issued on Thursday, May 8th) says that the official launch of the mission is not likely to take place until August at the earliest.

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NASA is Having a Tough Time Testing the SLS

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) has been having some problems getting tested since it rolled out onto launch pad 39B last month. These tests, called wet dress rehearsals, are used to find any problems with loading the propellant and verify that all of the rocket’s systems are able to handle it being exposed to cryogenics.

After this most recent attempt on April 14th, it is clear that the SLS isn’t ready for flight yet. The problems that the teams have been encountering have led them to make some procedural changes and slight adjustments in operations and software triggers. There are also the leak problems that have shown up that have to be addressed.

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NASA Will be Testing SLS Over the Weekend

The Space Launch System (SLS) has just one more hurdle to clear before this summer’s historic launch. This is known as the Wet Dress Rehearsal, where the fully-stacked SLS and Orion spacecraft will conduct a series of operations at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test follows the arrival of the SLS to Launch Complex 39B after making its big rollout on March 17th from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VLB).

The Wet Dress Rehearsal will run from Friday, April 1st, through Sunday, April 3rd, and will see the Artemis I launch team load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain propellants to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch. The weekend-long event will be live-streamed via the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube channel.

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SLS Will be Tested Again in About 3 Weeks

In November of 2021, NASA will embark on a new era of space exploration as they make the inaugural launch of the Space Launch System (SLS). When it enters service, this booster will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V, which took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon. This is fitting since the SLS will be the rocket returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024 (as part of Project Artemis).

To get the SLS ready for its first launch, NASA has been running the Core Stage through a series of tests designed to test all the systems and components of the heavy-launch system – collectively known as a “Green Run.” The next step in this process will be a second Green Run Hot Fire Test, where all four RS-25 engines on the SLS Core Stage will fire at once to show they can operate as part of a single integrated system.

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