NASA aims to launch the SLS rocket in just 2 months
The US space agency has spent a lot of time designing, developing, building and testing space rocket systems. When NASA created the rocket program in 2010, U.S. lawmakers said the SLS booster should be ready for launch in 2016.
Of course, they came and went with the launch target and many others. But now, after more than a decade and more than 20 billion in funding, NASA and its contractors are very close to announcing that the 111-meter high rocket is ready for launch.
On June 20, NASA successfully measured the rocket T-29 seconds during a pre-launch fuel test. Although they did not reach T-9 seconds, as intended, the agency’s engineers gathered enough data to satisfy the information needed to get to the launch.
During a pair of news conferences last week, NASA officials refused to set a launch target for the mission. However, in an interview with Arsenal on Tuesday, NASA’s senior investigative officer, Jim Free, said the agency was working toward the launch window between August 23 and September 6.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Free said. “We’d be foolish not to target it right now. We made incredible progress last week.”
Next the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft are returning to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, which includes arming the flight termination system. A team of technicians and engineers will also replace the seal on “Quick Disconnect” where a hydrogen leak appeared during fuel loading.
The rollback could begin as early as Thursday, Free said, and workers plan to process the vehicle during a relatively fast turnaround. “That group knows what they want to do when we get back,” he said. “I don’t think we’re pushing ourselves to get there. We’re probably pushing ourselves a little bit, but we’re not going to do anything stupid.” On this timeline, the SLS rocket could return to the launch pad in less than two months.
In this Artemis I mission, no human will be taken on board, but it will act as a test flight for the giant rocket, which is used by NASA’s largest agency Apollo program to fly since Saturn V. The second mission, Artemis II, will see a team of four astronauts fly around the moon. This will not happen before 2025. The first human landing on the moon will be one or two years after the successful conclusion of Artemis III, Artemis II.