© Reuters.NASA’s next-generation lunar rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) on top of the Orion crew module, stands at launch complex 39B as rain clouds roll over the area, on Artemis 1 at Cape Canaveral Mission delayed until first test launch
By: Joey Roulette and Steve Gorman
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Reuters) – Ground crews at the Kennedy Space Center began refueling on Saturday on NASA’s next-generation giant rocket, which was scuttled on Saturday after its first takeoff attempt was thwarted by technical issues. Launched for the first time in a five-day unmanned test flight to the moon.
The 32-story Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion capsule are scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:17 p.m. ET (1817 GMT) to kick off U.S. spaceflight Bureau Artemis’ ambitious Mars moon. Scheduled 50 years after the last Apollo moon landing. (Picture: https://tmsnrt.rs/3PPRsbN)
Release quotes before Monday were halted due to engineering issues. NASA says technicians have addressed those issues.
Weather is another factor beyond NASA’s control. There’s a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions during Saturday’s two-hour window, according to the latest forecast from the Cape Canaveral-based U.S. Space Force.
Before dawn, launch crews began the long and delicate process of filling the rocket’s core-stage fuel tanks with hundreds of thousands of gallons of supercooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants.
Engineers stopped charging with liquid hydrogen at around 7:30 a.m., about an hour after the complex process began, to repair the leak.
If the countdown is interrupted again, NASA may reschedule another launch attempt on Monday or Tuesday.
Dubbed Artemis I, the mission marks the first flight of the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, according to NASA’s partnership with Boeing (NYSE ? Co and lockheed martin Corporation (NYSE: ), respectively.
It also marks a major shift in the direction of NASA’s post-Apollo manned spaceflight program, after decades of focusing on low-Earth orbit for the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.
Artemis, named after the goddess Apollo’s twin sister in ancient Greek mythology, aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface as soon as possible in 2025, although many experts believe the deadline may be earlier.
From 1969 to 1972, 12 astronauts walked on the moon on six Apollo missions, the only spaceflight that still put humans on the lunar surface. But Apollo, born out of the U.S.-Soviet space race during the Cold War, was not as science-oriented as Artemis.
Project Crescent attracted commercial partners such as SpaceX and space agencies from Europe, Canada and Japan, culminating in a long-term lunar operating base that would serve as a springboard for a more ambitious human journey to Mars.
space flight stress test
Getting the SLS-Orion spacecraft off the ground is a critical first step. Its maiden voyage was designed to put the 5.75-million-pound vehicle through its paces in a rigorous test flight, pushing the limits of its design and proving that the spacecraft is fit for flying astronauts.
If the mission is successful, a manned orbit of Artemis II could take place as early as 2024, with astronauts, including a woman, joining Artemis III for the first time within a few years.
Considered the most powerful and complex rocket in the world, the SLS represents the largest new vertical launch system NASA has built since the Apollo-era Saturn V.
Barring last-minute difficulties, Saturday’s countdown will end with the rocket’s four main RS-25 engines and two solid rocket boosters launching to produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust, which is about more than the Saturn V. 15% to make the spacecraft fly into the sky.
About 90 minutes after launch, the rocket’s upper stage will push Orion out of Earth’s orbit for a 37-day flight that will fly within 60 miles of the lunar surface, before flying 40,000 miles (64,374 kilometers) beyond the moon and back to Earth . The capsule is scheduled to land in the Pacific Ocean on October 11.
While there will be no humans on board, Orion will carry a mock crew of three — a male and two female mannequins — equipped with sensors to measure the radiation and other stresses real astronauts would experience.
The spacecraft is also expected to release a payload of 10 small science satellites, called CubeSats, one of which is designed to map the rich ice deposits at the moon’s south pole.
One of the mission’s primary goals was to test the durability of Orion’s heat shield as it hit Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 mph (39,429 km/h) on its return from lunar orbit, which is 32 times the speed of sound — Much faster than the more common capsule reentry that returns from Earth orbit.
The heat shield is designed to resist reentry friction, which is expected to raise the temperature outside the capsule to nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
The SLS-Orion spacecraft has been in development for a decade, and after years of delays and budget overruns, has cost NASA at least $37 billion to date. NASA’s Office of Inspector General expects the total cost of Artemis to reach $93 billion by 2025.
NASA supports the program as a boon for space exploration, creating tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade.