The giant SLS rocket’s most recent wet dress rehearsal wasn’t perfect, but NASA says it’s enough to keep the Artemis 1 lunar mission on track for liftoff in a few months. Objective: circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth to prepare for the return of humans there.
A few days ago, NASA operated the fourth wet general rehearsal of its giant SLS launcher. Several technical problems had aborted previous attempts. During these last tests, which lasted about fifty hours, the engineers supplied the launcher with fuel and simulated a countdown. The team members did notice a small hydrogen leak during the refueling operations, but this new technical glitch does not seem to cause too much concern.
“NASA has reviewed data from the rehearsal and determined that the test campaign is complete,” a statement read. The teams therefore decided that there would be no more wet rehearsals. Now the agency is moving forward. The SLS launcher and its Orion capsule will soon be brought back to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to perform the necessary repairs and prepare the duo for launch to the Moon.
“NASA plans to bring the SLS and Orion back to the pad for a late August launch,” the teams note. “NASA will set a specific target launch date after replacing the hardware associated with the leak.”
The course of the mission
If all goes well, we should soon be able to witness the first flight of this mega rocket. During this mission, the Orion capsule will be placed in Earth orbit before being placed on a translunar trajectory by the upper stage of the rocket (Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage or ICPS). This maneuver will send the capsule to the Moon. It will then separate from the ICPS, then place itself in orbit around our satellite using its own engines a few days later.
During this test, the capsule will evolve about 400 km above the lunar surface. The orbit will also be retrograde, that is, in the opposite direction to the rotation of the Moon. The ship will remain for several days, the time to carry out tests, then it will return to Earth to land in the Pacific.
Artemis 1 will be the first mission of the Artemis program aimed at establishing a sustainable, long-term human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade. It should pave the way for the first manned flight of Artemis in 2024 and a manned lunar landing a year or two later.