NASA mission managers updated Artemis I progress ahead of the March rollout of the massive Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to Kennedy Space Centre’s Launch Pad 39-B. The agency called it a wet dress rehearsal.
It is targeting March 16 at 6 p.m. for the 322-foot-tall rocket to make the 4.2-mile journey to the pad. The agency will need a month or more for testing and a rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building before NASA signs off on a launch attempt. So, an April launch window has been taken off the board.
The next possible windows for launch are from May 7-21, June 6-16 and June 29-July 12.
Moat of the work inside the VAB is done ahead of the wet dress rollout. It includes the last major hardware testing. The testing involves the installation of the explosives on the vehicle. It would be used in the event of an abort launch scenario.
NASA Exploration Ground Systems program manager at Kennedy Space Centre, Mike Bolger, said that Artemis I on the mobile transport weighs more than 17 million pounds. It will tower up to more than 400 feet sitting atop the crawler.
The uncrewed flight is the first in the Artemis program. A crewed Artemis II flight planned no earlier than May 2024. It will send astronauts on orbit around the moon as well. In Artemis III, NASA looks to return humans to the lunar surface. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the mission could happen no earlier than 2025.
Artemis I has to make it through the pad test. At the launch pad, the mobile launcher will get hooked up but not ready for the actual wet dress rehearsal activities for about two weeks.
The test will fill and drain the core stage with 730,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. But it will not light the engines. How long it’s on the pad is dependent on weather. But best-case scenarios have it away from the VAB for about 30 days.
Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin said that teams have already begun the early phases of the flight readiness review process for launch.