The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will fly on NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission is about to conduct an important series of tests this weekend.
NASA officials called reporters Wednesday (June 15) to provide an update ahead of those tests, which together include a launch simulation known as a “robe rehearsal.”
The Artemis 1 The stack — the SLS and the crew’s Orion capsule — was rolled out to Historic Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on June 6. It is scheduled to begin on Saturday (18 June).
Live updates: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission explained in pictures
Artemis 1 will be the first launch of SLS I will send an unmanned Orion around the moon And return. This is Artemis 1’s second time on the podium to perform a wet rehearsal, a launch simulation that involves refueling the rocket and running actual countdown routines, up to T-10 seconds.
NASA attempted to perform the wet dress in early April, attempting to refuel the SLS three separate times over the course of several days. But Artemis 1 decided to roll the Artemis stack Back to KSC Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in late April, after a hydrogen leak and other issues prevented the rocket from being refueled, eventually canceling each attempt.
Over the course of a month, teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida were able to make needed repairs to the SLS and associated ground systems, as well as get a jump start on some upgrades that were originally scheduled after a wet rehearsal.
“We fixed some things in the area we saw [hydrogen] leak,” Jim Free, associate director of exploration systems development at NASA, said during a call on Wednesday.
The time in the VAB also gave technicians an opportunity to optimize loadings for the SLS. using “knowhow from the [space] Frey said teams at VAB have been able to modernize and automate certain procedures for filling the rocket’s cryogenic fuel tanks.
The free Exploration Ground Systems teams, as well as other NASA offices focused on Artemis, were praised for their excellent planning “to provide the most [this year’s] launch intervals we can, so we can get the car up and running and understand how it works.” Free emphasized that the SLS is still a new vehicle, and while officials hope to try to launch the Artemis 1 in late August, a successful rehearsal should precede takeoff.
Related: NASA’s Artemis Lunar Exploration Program
“This is the first step to getting us back to the moon,” Frey said. “This launch has very specific goals. It’s a flight test. We want to test the heat shield at lunar re-entry speeds, we want to make sure we get the craft back, and we want to make sure the systems in orbit are working so that we get to [Artemis] 2, we feel confident in the crew position [Orion]. “
The Artemis stack 1 spent last week in Pad 39B undergoing validation tests, according to Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director with KSC’s Exploration Ground Systems program, who was also on Wednesday’s call. Over the course of several days after Artemis 1 returned to the board, teams worked to confirm services and communication between the SLS portable launcher and command and control systems at NASA’s Launch Control Center.
Last weekend, the teams also conducted booster servicing procedures, completing excessive fuel loading of the booster hydraulic power unit, which provides control of the missile’s thrust during flight. Blackwell-Thompson said the system is scheduled to be tested “within the 30-second mark” of the upcoming rehearsal.
“Our pad flow is basically complete, not to mention our wet-wet practice preparations, which are now in full swing,” Blackwell Thompson said. Additional wetsuit preparations included the completion of booster and engine checks, lowering the engine servicing platform away from the missile, and finally, completion of preparatory work on the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen systems, which preceded the complete shutdown of the launch vehicles.
“It’s going to be the next force as part of our training operations,” Blackwill Thompson said. She noted that a pre-test briefing for the ground teams will take place on Friday (June 17), with the wet dress expected to begin the next day. The rehearsal itself is estimated to last less than 48 hours and will power the car through multiple launch countdown simulations, suspensions and miscarriages.
NASA officials hope a successful wet dress trial will keep Artemis 1 on track to have an available launch window at the end of August, but have confirmed that they are focused on completing the wet dress first. Accounting for lunar positioning, NASA has published Possible windows launch schedule for the Artemis 1 mission that runs through 2023.
Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).