NASA’s mega moon rocket arrives at launchpad (again)

NASA’s next-generation SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft have arrived on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center ahead of a second attempt at a key pre-flight test.

NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft arrived at Kennedy’s launch complex 39B following a four-mile, eight-hour journey from the facility’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

Carried by one of NASA’s low-slung crawler vehicles that moves at no faster than 1 mph, the SLS and Orion vehicles reached the launchpad at about 8:20 a.m. ET on Monday, June 6.

The space agency shared several images of the 332-feet (98.1-meter) rocket in position:

📸 Rollout photos!

In the early hours of the morning, @NASAGroundSys transported the SLS rocket and @NASA_Orion spacecraft to launch pad 39B for the next wet dress rehearsal test ahead of #Artemis I. Catch a live view of the rocket at the pad HERE >> https://t.co/c4PCzejcLt pic.twitter.com/CE7WIQtsZc

— NASA_SLS (@NASA_SLS) June 6, 2022

In preparation for the Artemis I lunar mission, the SLS rocket will undergo a so-called “wet dress rehearsal” no earlier than June 19. This important pre-launch procedure involves filling the rocket’s tanks with fuel and performing a mock countdown.

Prior to the rehearsal, NASA engineers will spend some time securing the SLS rocket and mobile launcher to ground support equipment.

This is the second time for the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to be transported to the launchpad for a wet dress rehearsal. But after reaching the launchpad in March, a rehearsal in early April was called off after engineers identified a number of technical issues.

As a result, the vehicle was rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building so the issues could be addressed.

Once the SLS rocket achieves a successful wet dress rehearsal, the vehicle will be deemed ready for its first mission, Artemis I.

The uncrewed test mission will use the SLS to power the Orion toward the moon. The spacecraft will perform a flyby of our nearest neighbor before returning to Earth.

A successful flight will pave the way for Artemis II, which will take the same path but this time with astronauts aboard the Orion.

If NASA is fully satisfied with the performance of both the SLS and the Orion, Artemis III will land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in what will be the first crewed lunar landings since the final Apollo mission in 1972. Artemis III is currently scheduled for no earlier than 2025.

The Artemis program is seeking to launch a new era in lunar exploration with a view to establishing the first long-term presence on the moon. NASA said that it aims to “use what we learn on and around the moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.”

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