On Friday, April 1, 2022, a final test of the new NASA rocket “SLS”, which is scheduled to be sent later this year to the moon, began in Florida.
If the experiment is successful, the launch date of the “Artemis 1” mission will be set, the first in the return of Americans to the moon, but any astronaut will not participate in this trip.
The test began around 5 p.m. local time on Friday and is scheduled to end on Sunday afternoon.
The 98-meter-long rocket was located during the last two weeks on the 39B launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, on top of the Orion capsule, in which astronauts will be located in the future.
Friday began the countdown, which lasts more than 45 hours. First, the missile and capsule must be operated, communications systems checked, and a number of preparations made.
About eight hours before the mock liftoff, the rocket’s tanks will be filled with more than three million liters of fuel-cooled – liquid hydrogen at minus 267 degrees Celsius and oxygen at minus 170 degrees Celsius.
The countdown will stop nine seconds before the engines start, to simulate the forced cancellation of the take-off, for example, due to weather conditions or a technical problem.
The fuel will then be withdrawn from the missile tanks.
The US space agency intends to enable the public to view the various stages of the experiment through its blog throughout the weekend. There is also a live video transmission via YouTube, but without audio. And NASA explained that some of the information may be sensitive.
Vehicles similar to the SLS appear “very similar to the ballistic capabilities that other countries may be interested in,” NASA Exploration Systems Development Officer Tom Whitmire said at a press conference this week.
NASA will announce the first results of this test Monday.
But Whitmire explained that “assessing how well the test worked and whether there was a need to correct” some “unfamiliar” things you might notice during the test “could take a few days”.
I hope to announce the launch date of “Artemis 1” in the next few days. It may not be possible to launch the missile in May, but it could happen in early June or early July.
After the general test, the missile will be returned to its hangar for a final series of checks, after which it will be taken out in preparation for takeoff.
And “Artemis 1” will be the first flight of the “SLS” missile, whose design and manufacture has been delayed for years. The SLS will push the Orion capsule into lunar orbit, before returning to Earth.
It is not expected that any manned flight will land on the surface of the moon before the expected “Artemis 3” mission in 2025 at the earliest.
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