ORLANDO, Fla. — Even though NASA was not able to complete every goal it laid out during a dress rehearsal countdown for its Artemis I moon rocket at Kennedy Space Center this week, mission managers determined Thursday that enough was done to move forward to planning for launch.
During a wet dress rehearsal completed Monday, the 5.75 million-pound, 322-foot-tall combination of the Space Launch System, Orion capsule and mobile launcher sitting at Launch Pad 39-B was able to be filled and drained with 730,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for the first time after three previous scrubs of the testing effort since April.
The test didn’t go 100% smoothly, with a new hydrogen leak detected on an umbilical running from the mobile launcher to the core stage.
Despite that leak forcing NASA to table some other facets of the planned test, previous testing on the rocket that had been done over the years was considered on whether to move forward with the real deal.
“NASA has reviewed the data from the rehearsal and determined the testing campaign is complete,” NASA stated on an update Thursday on its website. “The agency will roll SLS and Orion back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy next week to prepare the rocket and spacecraft for launch and repair a leak detected during the most recent rehearsal.”
The update said the Artemis I rocket would then return to the launch pad, hopefully making that 4.4-mile trip for the last time in late August before blasting off on its next trip, when it heads 280,000 miles away on an uncrewed flight beyond the moon. It will mark the first launch of the nation’s future plans to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
A specific launch target date will be determined after it completes replacing hardware related to the hydrogen leak.
The earliest launch opportunities for Artemis I are in windows that run Aug. 23-Sept. 6, Sept. 20-Oct. 4, Oct. 17-31, Nov. 12-27 and Dec. 9-23. Each window has only certain days during which the Earth and moon are in the right position for the planned mission.
When it lifts off, it will become the most powerful rocket to ever lift off from Earth, producing 8.8 million pounds of thrust. NASA plans on flying a crewed Artemis II mission in 2024 that will also orbit the moon, and then attempting the moon landing on Artemis III no earlier than 2025.