NASA is preparing for the deployment of the Artemis 1 mission next week

Teams begin retracting the “kitchen drawer” platforms surrounding the first rocket that will launch a NASA Artemis mission to the moon.

Retracting the platforms surrounding the massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida is a key step in safely sending the rocket and spacecraft to the launch pad on March 17 before the launch of Artemis 1, which is expected to take place in May at the earliest.

The uncrewed Artemis 1 will send an Orion spacecraft around the moon, to ensure that SLS and Orion are ready for crewed missions. The first crewed Artemis mission, Artemis 2, will send astronauts around the moon in 2024, if all goes according to plan. Artemis 3 will land people on the lunar surface no sooner than 2025, although a 2026 liftoff is likely more likely given some issues identified by NASA’s Inspector General.

But for now, the focus is on Artemis 1, and preparations are underway to ready SLS and Orion for launch, NASA said in a March 2 statement. blog post. “Teams continue to install instrumentation on the two SLS solid rocket boosters inside the VAB,” the post read, referring to KSC’s cavernous vehicle assembly building.

Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission explained in photos

Such sensors will allow engineers to virtually taxi with the rocket and spacecraft during their four-mile (6.5 kilometer) deployment to Launch Complex 39B and monitor the mission’s progress as it prepares for launch. launch.

Once on the pad, the SLS-Orion stack will return a plethora of systems data, including the rocket, spacecraft, and deployment ground gear. Thruster loading and other pad activity will also be captured.

The SLS-Orion stack still needs to pass a wet dress rehearsal — a test of most of the steps that will be completed on launch day — to be ready for liftoff. The launch of Artemis 1 has been repeatedly pushed back due to technical issues and other scheduling factors. The rehearsal in wetsuit is scheduled around two weeks after Artemis 1 arrives on the pad, which puts the procedure at the end of March at the earliest.

If successful, the Artemis program will be the first series of missions to send humans to the moon since the half-dozen Apollo flights that landed on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972. The 50th anniversary of the last lunar mission with crew, Apollo 17, will be in December 2022.

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