We’re Going to see at Least Five More SLS Rockets Launch in the Coming Years

March 2022 image of NASA's Space Launch System rocket’s core stage forward assembly boasting a 40-meter (130-foot) liquid hydrogen tank. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

NASA’s continued goal of sending humans into deep space using its Space Launch System (SLS) recently took a giant leap as the world’s largest space agency finalized the SLS Stages Production and Evolution Contract worth $3.2 billion with The Boeing Company in Huntsville, Alabama. The purpose of the contract is for Boeing to keep building SLS core and upper stages for future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond for at least five more SLS launches.

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NASA Just Tested a new Engine That Will Launch Artemis V and Beyond

NASA conducts an RS-25 hot fire on the Fred Haise Test Stand at Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi on Dec. 14. Credit: NASA/SSC

On November 16th, NASA launched the first mission of the Artemis Program (Artemis I), which splashed down three and a half weeks later. This uncrewed mission saw the Space Launch System (SLS) send an Orion spacecraft far beyond the orbit of the Moon, establishing a new record for distance traveled by a mission and the amount of time spent beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Powering the core stage of the SLS were four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25s, the same engines used by the Space Shuttle – known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME).

By the end of the decade, NASA plans to mount a total of six Artemis launches that will include crewed missions to the surface, the creation of the Artemis Basecamp, and the deployment of the Lunar Gateway. NASA also plans to upgrade key components in the mission architecture along the way, which include replacing the Space Shuttle Era engines with the newly-designed RS-25E. On December 14th, NASA tested this engine for the first time at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, completing a hot fire test that lasted for just under three and a half minutes (209.5 seconds).

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NASA Releases Another Supercut of the Artemis I Mission, Showing the Launch and Flight Past the Moon

The Earth and Moon as see from the Orion spacecraft, close to 435,000 km (270,000 miles) from Earth. Credit: NASA livestream.

Artemis I is now on day seventeen of its mission, having just completed its distant retrograde orbit burn. This maneuver has placed the uncrewed Orion spacecraft (loaded with mannequins and sensors) on its way back to Earth. In honor of this historic mission that has traveled farther than any spacecraft in history, NASA has released a second supercut video of footage from the mission. The 1-minute, 36-second video includes highlights from the maiden launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft making its circumlunar flight and looking back at the Earth-Moon system.

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SpaceX’s Super Heavy Fires 11 of its Engines in a Long-Duration Test

Static engine fire of the BN7 on Nov. 29th, 2022. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is at it again! Yesterday (November 29th), the company conducted another static fire test with the Booster 7 (BN7) prototype at its Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. The test began at 02:42 p.m. EST (11:42 a.m. PST) and saw eleven of the BN7’s thirty-three Raptor 2 engines fire for 13 seconds. While static fire tests have been the norm these past few months, this latest might be the prelude to the orbital test flight Musk has been hinting at for close to a year. News of the successful test was shared via Twitter, while NASA Spaceflight (NSF) shared footage of the test via Youtube.

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Artemis 1 Sends Back Snapshots of Earth as It Speeds Toward the Moon

Earth as seen from Orion capsule
Earth shines in an image captured by a camera mounted on one of the Orion service module’s solar array wings. (NASA / ESA / JP Major)

As it heads for the moon, NASA’s Orion space capsule is sending back snapshots of Earth that evoke the “blue marble” pictures taken by Apollo astronauts five decades earlier.

This time around, the photographer is basically a robot, built into the camera system for the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission. The round-the-moon odyssey got off to a spectacular start early today with the first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System, and over the next 25 days it’s due to blaze a trail for future crewed trips to the lunar surface.

Hours after liftoff, a camera mounted on one of Orion’s four solar arrays pivoted around to capture a view of the spacecraft’s European-built service module in the foreground — with our half-shadowed planet set against the black background of space.

“Orion looking back at Earth as it travels toward the moon, 57,000 miles away from the place we call home,” NASA’s Sandra Jones intoned as the imagery came down.

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A new Launch Date for Artemis 1: November 14th … at Night

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen at sunset atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B as preparations for launch continue, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

If the next launch attempt of the Artemis I mission goes as planned, it should be a spectacular sight.

NASA is now targeting Monday, November 14 at just after midnight Eastern Time for the liftoff of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft. A 69-minute launch window opens at 12:07 a.m. EST.

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NASA’s Space Launch System Gets Tentative Launch Date of August 29th

NASA has announced tentative placeholder launch dates for its beast of a rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), on its maiden flight to deep space. While work still needs to be accomplished to ensure its launch, the tentative dates are currently August 29th, September 2nd, and September 5th. While NASA stressed these are not set dates, the announcement nonetheless puts SLS closer than ever to flight.

The maiden launch of the most powerful rocket ever built comes after years of budget increases and delays. Funding for SLS was approximately $1.5 billion in 2011 but has increased almost every year until it hit $2.5 billion in 2021. This came after Congress mandated SLS “operational capability…not later than December 31, 2016”, but has faced countless delays since then due to audits and poor management.

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NASA Says It’s Satisfied With Rehearsal for SLS Moon Rocket Launch

SLS and Orion at launch pad
A full Moon looms over NASA's Space Launch System and its Orion capsule containing yeast cells bound for an epic trip. (NASA Photo / Ben Smegelsky)

NASA says it’s finished with having to do full-scale dress rehearsals for the first liftoff of its moon-bound Space Launch System rocket. But it’s not finished with having to make fixes.

“At this point we’ve determined that we’ve successfully completed the evaluations and the work that we intended to complete for the dress rehearsal,” Thomas Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development, told reporters today.

NASA’s assessment came after a dress rehearsal that reached its climax on June 20 with the loading of the 322-foot-tall rocket’s supercooled propellant tanks. The rehearsal, which followed some less-than-fully-successful trial runs in April, marked a milestone for launch preparations because it was the first time that the team at Kennedy Space Center in Florida had fully loaded all of the tanks and proceeded into the terminal launch countdown.

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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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Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder Provides the Music for NASA's new SLS Video

For fans of Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, and space exploration, this video will require very little explanation. But just in case some people haven’t seen it yet, this musical performance was a tribute to the long-awaited roll-out of the fully-stacked Space Launch System (SLS) at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s guaranteed to give you goosebumps and maybe even bring a tear to your eye!

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