Story at a glance
- The massive stack will begin the four-mile journey from its assembly building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday to launch pad 39B.
- NASA says the process could take up to 12 hours.
- Once the stack is successfully placed on the launchpad, the rocket will be prepared for its “wet dress rehearsal” test scheduled for early April, the final test before launching the mission.
NASA will roll out its massive “mega moon rocket” to a launch pad Thursday afternoon for key tests as the space agency plots its return to the lunar surface for the first time in 50 years.
The 322-foot-tall stack designed to carry out NASA’s uncrewed Artemis I mission around the moon and back to Earth is made up of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft that sit atop of a mobile launcher.
The massive stack will begin the four-mile journey from its assembly building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday to launch pad 39B, a process NASA says is expected to take somewhere between six and 12 hours to complete.
Once the stack is successfully placed on the launchpad, the rocket will be prepared for its “wet dress rehearsal” test scheduled for early April, the final test before launching the mission.
The dress rehearsal includes loading more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic propellants into the rocket, running through each phase of the launch countdown and draining propellants to demonstrate safely standing down on a launch attempt. The stack will then make its way back into the assembly area until it’s ready to launch if the rehearsal is successful.
“It’s a great week for the agency and all our programs. And certainly, I’m looking forward to seeing Orion launch on Artemis I with this roll out of a great launch vehicle and spacecraft that’s going to kick off a new era of human spaceflight exploration,” Howard Hu, manager of the Orion program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said during a news conference earlier this week.
The uncrewed Artemis I mission is the first flight of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft together, and first in a series of moon missions that will seek to establish the “first long-term presence on the Moon” in the coming years to prepare for the exploration of Mars.
NASA plans to put humans on the moon by 2025, which would mark the first time astronauts set foot on the lunar surface since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. The space agency plans to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon, among other astronauts.
Thursday’s rollout will be broadcast live on NASA’s website.
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