The SLS rocket and its Orion capsule is scheduled to roll out on Thursday, March 17 at 5pm EST and will take around 11 hours for the roughly 4 mile trip to Launch Complex 39b.
Teams have retracted all but 2 of the 10 levels of platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft (close-up at right) for the Artemis 1 mission. Preparation is ongoing at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Teams are starting to retract the “kitchen drawer” platforms surrounding the first rocket that will launch a NASA Artemis mission toward the moon.
Once on the pad, the SLS-Orion stack will send back a plethora of data on systems to Launch teams, including the rocket, spacecraft and rollout ground gear. Propellant loading and other pad activities will also be captured. Launch Teams will perform a full countdown, including loading fuel into the rocket, and will countdown until T-10 seconds.
At a teleconference meeting held on Monday, NASA said the Wet Dress Rehearsal is scheduled for April 3rd. The Official countdown is scheduled to start on April 1st
The uncrewed Artemis 1 will send an Orion spacecraft around the moon, to make sure both SLS and Orion are ready for crewed missions. The first crewed Artemis mission, Artemis 2, will send astronauts around the moon in 2024, if all goes according to plan. Artemis 3 will land people on the lunar surface no earlier than 2025, though a 2026 liftoff is probably more likely given some issues identified by NASA’s inspector general.
If successful, the Artemis program will be the first set of missions to put humans on the moon since the half-dozen Apollo flights that landed on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972. The 50th anniversary of the last crewed moon mission, Apollo 17, will be in December 2022.