If all goes according to plan, NASA could launch its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket on its first flight around the moon by as early as Aug. 29.
That’s a big “if,” however: Workers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida still have to finish fixing and testing the rocket’s systems, including components that didn’t get fully checked out during last month’s launch rehearsal.
Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program, said it’ll be tricky to finish up the final test while observing all the launch constraints currently in place. “We do have some challenges right now as we complete that test and all our final closeout work, particularly in the core stage intertank, to get to a point where we’re ready to roll out,” he said today.
Today’s announcement came on an auspicious day: the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The schedule calls for the 322-foot-tall, 3.5 million-pound rocket to roll out from the space center’s Vehicle Assembly Building on Aug. 18. That would set the stage for potential launch attempts on Aug. 29, Sept. 2 and Sept. 5. Liftoff would mark the start of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, an uncrewed test flight that’s meant to blaze a trail for astronauts to land on the lunar surface by as early as 2025.