Countdown begins for NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission and maiden flight of SLS megarocket
The countdown clock kicked off Saturday as NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket launched for the first time on Monday. long awaited task Send an unmanned Orion crew module around the moon and back. Charlie Blackwell Thompson, NASA’s first female launch director, summoned her team to their space station in Shooting Room 1 at the Kennedy Space Center and kicked off an elaborate 46-hour 10 at 10:23 a.m. ET. Minutes count down.
Using remote controls, engineers plan to begin pumping 750,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen fuel into the giant SLS rocket’s core stage after 12 a.m. Monday in preparation for an 8:33 a.m. launch, opening a two-hour window. Forecast The operator predicts a 70% chance of good weather.
One question mark going into the countdown was the status of the 4-inch liquid hydrogen quick-disconnect fitting that leaked during the June 20 practice countdown and refueling test.
The fitting was restored after the rocket was towed back to NASA’s assembly building. But hydrogen leaks usually don’t occur unless the equipment is exposed to low temperatures — in this case, minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit — and that doesn’t happen until Monday morning when refueling begins.
If a leak that violates safety standards is detected, the launch will be cleared. But Blackwell-Thompson said she was confident in her normal work.
“You can’t really get a full test until you test in cryogenic conditions,” she said in an interview. “So we believe we’ve done everything we can to correct this, and on launch day, as part of our loadout, we’ll know for sure.”
Getting the $4.1 billion SLS rocket off the pad into space will mark a major milestone for NASA and its Artemis program, which aims to put the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2025-26.
The primary goal of the 42-day Artemis 1 mission is to verify the performance of the giant SLS rocket, allow the Orion crew module to pass its stride and bring it safely back to Earth, ensuring the capsule’s 16.5-foot-wide heat shield protects the return astronauts are protected from the high-velocity heat of reentry.
An instrumented spacesuit mannequin — Moonikin Campos — and two artificial female torsos will help scientists measure the radiation environment in deep space, as well as the vibration, sound levels, acceleration, temperature and pressure of the crew capsule throughout the mission.
If the flight goes well, NASA will move forward with plans to launch four actual astronauts in free-return orbit around the moon by the end of 2024, followed by a mission to land two astronauts near the lunar south pole as early as 2025.
The flight will depend heavily on SpaceX developing a lander based on the design of its futuristic Starship rocket, but no details have been released about the company’s progress or NASA’s plans.