SLS Reaches Launchpad For Artemis I

The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft atop the mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 17.
Credit: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL—The first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, topped with an Orion deep-space capsule, was rolled out to Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39B on Aug. 17 in preparation for an Aug. 29 launch attempt.

The 4-mi. trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launchpad began just before 10 p.m. on Aug. 16, two days earlier than initially planned. The crawler-transporter reached the launchpad about 10 hr. later.

NASA is aiming to launch the SLS at 8:33 a.m. EDT on Aug. 29. If weather or a technical issue force a delay, NASA has two additional launch opportunities at 12:48 p.m. EDT on Sept. 2 and 5:12 p.m. EDT on Sept. 5. After that, the rocket would have to be returned to the VAB for retesting of its battery-operated flight termination system.

More than a decade in the making, the debut of the SLS marks the first in a series of missions designed to extend human presence—permanently and sustainably—beyond low Earth orbit. The primary goal of the first mission, known as Artemis I, is to put an uncrewed Orion capsule into distant retrograde lunar orbit to test its heat shield during a Mach 32 re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

If the planned 42-day flight test is successful, a crewed flight test will follow in mid-2024. NASA is aiming to land astronauts on the Moon’s surface on the third SLS mission, targeted for 2025.

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.