NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket is back at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B for another dress rehearsal aimed at clearing the way for a round-the-moon mission.
This time, NASA hopes the full-up rehearsal will include a fill-up.
The SLS rocket had its first rollout to the pad in mid-March, and NASA went through several rounds of pre-launch tests in April. But the team wasn’t able to fill the rocket’s tanks with super-chilled hydrogen and oxygen propellants due to a series of problems.
NASA had to transport the 322-foot-tall, 3.5 million-pound rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building and fix the glitches. Early today, the rocket made the 4-mile, eight-hour journey back to the pad to begin preparations for another “wet dress rehearsal,” including the tank-filling operation.
If all goes according to plan, NASA will go all the way through the countdown to the moment of ignition in two weeks. And if the reviews of the rehearsal are sufficiently glowing, the first-ever SLS launch would send NASA’s Orion spaceship on an uncrewed mission around the moon and back in August.
That mission, known as Artemis 1, could be considered a robotic rehearsal for a crewed Artemis 2 mission around the moon. The Artemis 2 launch is scheduled for no earlier than 2024. NASA’s plan calls for the mission after that, Artemis 3, to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo 17 — 50 years ago.