The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft will be tested for the first time in an unmanned trip during Artemis I. The flight opens the door for the first woman and first person of color to reach the moon. NASA has set aside 3 days in late August and the beginning of September for the Space Flight System rocket’s initial launch, which will deliver the Orion spacecraft into lunar orbit and back.
At a conference on July 20, representatives from NASA stated that the mission of Artemis 1, an unmanned Orion spacecraft test flight, and the initial launch of the SLS all had target deployment dates of August 29, September 2, and September 5. Prior to crashing to the ground off the San Diego coast, Orion is going to spend up to 6 weeks in cislunar orbit.
According to Jim Free, NASA’s exploration systems development associate administrator, “we think we’re on a solid path to getting to tries on those dates.” Crews have been engaging on Orion and SLS since they returned to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) on July 2 following the fourth WRT (wet dress rehearsal test), during which the rocket was loaded using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants and counted down. In the core stage, there was a liquid hydrogen leak that was discovered during that test needed to be fixed.
Technicians found a loose component, known as a collet, at which liquid hydrogen umbilical attaches to the rocket during that procedure. The fitting needed to be tightened, which involved entering the rocket’s engine compartment. That actually caused us to pause and consider if we would be able to hold a debut date on those 3 dates, according to Free. He claimed that now that those repairs were finished, he felt more assured about meeting those dates.
Free and other NASA representatives at the conference stressed that there was still work to be done on SLS and Orion before the rockets could take the lift. If those preparations progress as planned, the vehicle was going to roll back out to the Launch Complex 39B facility around August 18. However, a final decision on moving forward with a launch attempt wouldn’t be made until a flight readiness review approximately a week prior to launch.
The deployment windows and mission lengths for the 3 launch dates vary: The launch window on August 29 begins at 8:33 a.m. Eastern and lasts for two hours. If used, the mission would last 42 days and splashdown on October 10. The launch window on September 2 begins at 12:48 p.m. Eastern and lasts for two hours. A 39-day mission splashing down on October 11 would ensue. The launch window on September 5 begins at 5:12 p.m. Eastern and lasts for 90 minutes. A 42-day mission would splash down on October 17.
NASA classifies all three as “long-class” missions, but other days’ launch prospects would allow shorter trips lasting roughly four weeks. According to Mike Sarafin, manager of the NASA Artemis project, “We don’t have a strong preference as to whether it’s a short- or long-class mission.” Both assist in achieving all of the mission’s testing goals for the launch vehicle as well as spacecraft, with a focus on showcasing Orion’s heat shield during a reentry at the lunar return velocities.
The batteries for the rocket’s flight termination mechanism are one factor that makes launch preparation difficult (FTS). This involves holding a launch no later than 20 days after the system’s last test. In an effort to find a solution, NASA is collaborating with the Eastern Range.