Countdown Proceeding To Space Launch System Launch

t-38 jets flying in formation past sls and orion on launchpad
NASA astronauts and passengers formation-flew in T-38 jets past the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39B.
Credit: Josh Valcarcel/NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL—NASA on Aug. 28 was on schedule to begin fueling the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for its inaugural flight test, with liftoff from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39B targeted for 8:33 a.m. EDT on Aug. 29.

“So far, everything looks really good,” said Jeff Spaulding, senior NASA test director for the kickoff mission in NASA’s Artemis program, the first deep-space human exploration program since the Apollo program 50 years ago.

The 46-hr. countdown to launch started on schedule at 10:23 a.m. EDT on Aug. 27.  Three hours later, an afternoon thunderstorm passed through the spaceport, triggering lighting strikes at the launchpad. None proved to be a concern for flight or ground-support equipment, Spaulding said.

“We evaluated those yesterday and last night, and everything looks very good from the vehicle perspective. We haven’t had to do any significant retest,” he added.

The NASA Mission Management Team plans to meet late Aug. 28 and decide shortly before midnight Aug. 29 whether to proceed with tanking.

Meteorologists are forecasting an 80% chance of acceptable weather for a launch attempt at 8:33 a.m. EDT on Aug. 29. Conditions are expected to deteriorate to a 60% chance of launch later in the 2-hr. window.

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.