NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar rocket will begin its “wet rehearsal” tonight (June 18), beginning a series of crucial countdown tests that will last until Monday (June 20).
If all goes well, the massive Space launch system (SLS) The Orion rocket and space capsule may head to the moon before the end of summer.
The wet dress rehearsal is scheduled to begin today with a call to ground crew stations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 17:00 EDT (21:00 GMT). For about 48 hours, Artemis 1 the team will load cryogenic fuel in the first and second stages of the huge rocket. If the crews do not encounter any complications tonight or tomorrow, refueling is scheduled to begin at 7:00 AM EDT (11:00 GMT) on Monday.
This is the second time on the Artemis 1 stack on top of the historic KSC launch complex 39B, which first served as a support for NASA Apollo lunar missions. Artemis 1 – SLS’s debut launch – will send an unmanned Orion spacecraft on a one-month mission around The moon and vice versa. If successful, NASA plans to get astronauts to fly aboard the next two missions of Artemis, with the space agency monitoring the lunar landing of Artemis 3 in 2025 or 2026.
The Artemis 1 stack has been on Pad 39B since June 6, after spending more than a month in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at KSC. NASA’s first visit to a wet rehearsal of Artemis 1 took place in early April this year. For several days, NASA technicians tried, but failed to load the rocket three separate cases. Mechanical problems and leaks found during cryogenic fuel transfer eventually cleared the wet dress rehearsal in April and SLS was rreturned to VAB for repair on April 25.
If refueling is scheduled on Monday morning, NASA is aiming for a simulated launch countdown at 14:40 EDT (18:40 GMT). However, NASA has built in an additional two hours to account for any additional tests that must be performed while refueling. The ground teams will first load the main stage of the SLS, then move on to the upper stage of the launch vehicle, which is called the intermediate stage of cryogenic propulsion (ICPS).
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, director of Artemis’ launch of KSC’s ground-based research program, said a successful charge at each stage would be a significant achievement. “As long as we go through these stages, then we will move on to our terminal enumeration operations,” Blackwell-Thompson said.
Once the rocket is successfully loaded, the mission operators plan to move the countdown clock to the T-30 before starting its first arrest. The systems will be shut down and recycled before another terminal countdown begins, bringing the clock to T-10 seconds before the final interrupt countdown begins.
If testing goes smoothly, SLS and Orion will spend a few more days on the technician site to prepare the stack for its trip back to VAB. The Artemis 1 team will then analyze the data from the wet dress and perform all the necessary maintenance work on the rocket or mobile launch tower.
With the exception of any other hiccups found in the vehicle or ground systems during this wet dress rehearsal, NASA officials hope to launch Artemis 1 as early as the end of August. But they will not choose a target date until all the data on wet clothing is fully analyzed and they feel comfortable that the rocket is ready to really fly.