Artemis 1 lunar rocket “ready” for November 14 launch, NASA says
While NASA officials stressed in a media teleconference today (Nov. 3) that the agency’s Artemis 1 mission to the moon will be challenging, they said they are confident about the upcoming Nov. 14 launch attempt.
Artemis 1 stack of missions, consisting of a massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, is scheduled to launch again at Launch Pad 39B from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 12:01 a.m. EDT (04:01 GMT) on Friday (Nov. 4). The SLS stack has been on the pad on three previous occasions, once each in March and June for pre-launch fueling tests, and again in mid-August for two failed launch attempts. The rocket was then jettisoned back to the VAB on September 27 to ride out Hurricane Ianwhere it has been undergoing repairs and pre-flight checks ever since.
Despite these setbacks, NASA officials stressed at a media briefing today that they are behind the mission’s new timeline, which aims for a launch attempt at 12:07 a.m. EST (05:07 GMT) on November 14. “If we weren’t sure, we wouldn’t show up. If we weren’t sure, we wouldn’t start the countdown when we do. We’re confident we’re moving forward,” said Jim Free, associate administrator for the Research Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC
Free added that the Artemis 1 mission was a challenge from the start. “I want to reflect on the fact that this is a challenging mission,” Free told reporters. “We saw challenges just getting all our systems to work together. And that’s why we’re doing a flight test. It’s about going after things that can’t be modeled. And we’re learning by taking more risks on this mission before we put a crew there. And you the challenges, you know, come with this complex of vehicles and where we fly and how we get there.”
“The good part about all of this is that our team continues to grow and learn about the vehicle,” he added.
While SLS has been at VAB for the past five weeks, NASA engineers have been replacing SLS system hardware to complete the flight, recharging Orion’s batteries and replacing cargo batteries, including those in some of the The mission is 10 cubesats to drive.
“Since returning to the VAB for Hurricane Ian, the team has been hard at work,” said Cliff Lanham, senior manager of vehicle operations for the Research Ground Systems Program at KSC. “The work at VAB went smoothly and we were able to protect the rocket from the hurricane and we were able to get in our inspections and make repairs.”
Lanham added that with pre-flight work now coming to a close, NASA teams at KSC have begun preparing for Friday’s rollout on Launch Pad 39. “We’ve started pulling in our platforms. Now actually we’re pulling in our final platform. And the crawler transporter is now in a high spot below the mobile launcher.”
Space.com asked NASA officials whether previous launch attempts and the widespread media scrutiny that followed had affected the morale of the many personnel working on the Artemis 1 mission.
“This is a professional group of people whose first allegiance is to the hardware and getting it right. And when we give you all these discussions, I appreciate the questions and the ability to address things like you just said, the criticisms that are thrown at us,” Free told Space. com. “We’re spending taxpayer dollars. We should be open to criticism and answering questions, but that’s never going to put us in a situation where we’re pushing too hard to launch too quickly or make a bad decision.”
Lanham added that the team’s enthusiasm never waned despite previous mission failures. “We’re back in terms of being ready to go and excited down here.”
Artemis 1 will send an uncrewed Orion on a long journey to lunar orbit and back. It is NASA’s first mission Artemis program lunar exploration, which aims to land humans near the moon’s south pole in 2025 or 2026 and establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon by the end of the decade.
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