Artemis 1, the first in NASA‘s new generation of moon missions, won’t launch until at least the end of May, and could slip into June, according to the space agency.
It is set to lift off atop the massive Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but has been hit by a number of delays.
NASA said during a press call on Thursday, that it couldn’t launch until the agency had data from a full wet dress rehearsal, where the Orion capsule, that will one day take astronauts to lunar orbit, is stacked on the SLS at Pad 39B.
The team then follow all the procedures and protocols involved in launching the rocket, but without actually lifting off the ground – to ensure things will run smoothly.
This is expected to happen on March 17, which means an April launch is no longer viable for the Artemis 1 mission, which will see an uncrewed Orion spend 26 days travelling to the moon, go into orbit, and then return to Earth.
NASA is now planning to launch towards the end of May, but admitted it could slip into June or even July, depending on the dress rehearsal data, and the weather.
During the press conference, NASA also confirmed there were no Russian components in the SLS and Orion system.
Artemis 1, the first in NASA’s new generation of moon missions, won’t launch until at least the end of May, and could slip into June, according to the space agency
Artemis 1 was originally scheduled to launch at the end of 2021, but had to be postponed, originally until no earlier than April, and now no earlier than May.
Some of this was to deal with issues found in the flight controllers of SLS, and others due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
If it is postponed until June or July, as NASA officials hinted, this would match the findings of an earlier government audit, which indicated that Artemis I would likely take place ‘in the summer of 2022.’
‘We continue to evaluate the May window, but we’re also recognizing that there’s a lot of work in front of us,’ said Tom Whitmeyer, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator, with responsibility for exploration systems development.
That work includes analyzing the data from the wet dress rehearsal, which will see the full stack of Orion and SLS rolled out to launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center from the Vehicle Assembly Building at 18:00 ET on March 17.
‘During the test at the launch pad, engineers will be on duty in the Launch Control Center and in other stations where they will work during the Artemis I launch,’ NASA explained in a blog post about the wet dress rehearsal.
It is set to lift off atop the massive Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but has been hit by a number of delays
‘They will capture as much data as possible on the performance of all the systems that are part of SLS and the Orion spacecraft as well as the Kennedy ground systems.’
NASA’S SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM ROCKET IS THE LARGEST EVER MADE AND WILL LET HUMANS EXPLORE THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Space Launch System, or SLS, is a launch vehicle that NASA hopes will take its astronauts back to the moon and beyond.
The rocket will have an initial lift configuration, set to launch in the early-2020’s, followed by an upgraded ‘evolved lift capability’ that can carry heavier payloads.
Space Launch System Initial Lift Capability
– Maiden flight: Mid-2020’s
– Height: 311 feet (98 metres)
– Lift: 70 metric tons
– Weight: 2.5 million kilograms (5.5 million lbs)
Space Launch System Evolved Lift Capability
– Maiden flight: Unknown
– Height: 384 feet (117 metres)
– Lift: 130 metric tons
– Weight: 2.9 million kilograms (6.5 million lbs)
‘The crawler-transporter will transport… an over 17-million-pound stack to launch complex 39B,’ said Mike Bolger, from NASA, adding ‘the top of the umbilical tower will be over 400 feet off the ground when it’s riding on top of the crawler-transporter, so it’s really going to be a sight.’
After the wet dress rehearsal the combination of Orion and SLS will stay on Pad 39B for about a month, before rolling back into the hanger for more analysis.
To launch in May it has to be ready between May 7 and Mayor 21, and if it isn’t ready to go by then, with all analysis complete, it will have to wait until June.
The June window runs from June 6 until June 16, and then again from June 29 on until July 12, NASA officials confirmed.
While it is the first mission for the massive Space Launch System rocket engine, it will be the second for the Orion capsule, which was involved in a test flight in December 2014, going to space on a ULA Delta IV Heavy.
When Artemis 1 finally launches, it will kick start a new era of lunar exploration, that will eventually see the first woman, and first person of color land on the moon.
The Artemis I mission will see the Orion spacecraft, the SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy combine to launch the Orion 280,000 miles past Earth around the moon over the course of a three-week mission.
This spacecraft, primarily built by Lockheed Martin, will stay in space ‘longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before,’ NASA has said previously.
If Artemis I is a success, then in 2024 NASA will send Artemis II on a trip around the moon, this time with a human crew on board.
The Artemis II mission plans to send four astronauts in the first crewed Orion capsule into a lunar flyby for a maximum of 21 days.
Both missions are tests flights to demonstrate the technology and abilities of Orion, SLS and the Artemis mission before NASA puts human boots back on the moon.
The Artemis mission will be the first to land humans on the moon since NASA’s Apollo 17 in 1972. With the first woman and first person of color expected to step foot on the surface at some point in 2025.
At an estimated $1 billion per launch, the space agency wants to ensure any issues or errors are picked up before the single-use rocket leaves the Earth.
This is expected to happen on March 17, which means an April launch is no longer viable for the Artemis 1 mission, which will see an uncrewed Orion spend 26 days travelling to the moon, go into orbit, and then return to Earth
It is housed in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and with the Orion module on top, it stands a whopping 322ft.
When it launches the rocket will produce 8.8 million lbs of thrust, which is more than the Saturn V rocket that took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon in the 60s and 70s.
The Artemis missions have faced their own issues, including with the development of spacesuits and the human lander systems that will take crew to the surface.
However, many of the delays have been as a result of issues with the SLS itself and legal issues, caused by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin unsuccessfully suing NASA over a decision to award the Human lander system contract solely to Blue Origin.
In November, NASA extended its target date for sending astronauts back to the moon from 2024 to 2025 at the earliest.
NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2025 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.