NASA Prepares for SLS Launch, Local Celebratory Events Planned – The Madison Record
The following is from Claire Aiello and Mike Ward of the Huntsville / Madison County Chamber.
Rocket City, it’s time to speed up our engines and prepare for takeoff of the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s next mega-rocket that will bring humans back to the Moon and then to Mars.
Since 1972, no human has traveled more than 386 miles of the Earth’s surface. Getting people back to the moon will require a rocket capable of lifting more mass into space than we have ever lifted before, and a capsule capable of sustaining life and protecting the crew from the dangers of l exploration of deep space.
Make no mistake, there is cause to celebrate the many recent business launches you have seen in the news. These inspire future generations of scientists and astronauts. These launches took people and cargo into low earth orbit and then back. Blue Origin is building and testing the engine for its New Shepard and New Glenn rockets and ULA’s Vulcan rocket here in Huntsville, and it is reported that William Shatner – yes, Captain James T. Kirk – will be performing a suborbital flight in October.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon flew operational missions to the International Space Station. Virgin Atlantic also sent a crew to the edge of space and back.
However, none of these rockets went beyond low earth orbit. This is the difference with the SLS: it has to go further, with more power, to go to the moon. SLS is the only vehicle capable of transporting the Orion capsule to the moon, and the Orion capsule is the only human-rated vehicle capable of safely transporting astronauts to the moon. A lot of work is being done right here in Huntsville to support these exciting technologies.
How does the SLS compare to the Saturn V?
If you’re new to Huntsville, the Saturn V is the big rocket you see as you drive past US Space & Rocket Center on Interstate 565. Many say it’s the Huntsville Statue of Liberty or of the Golden Gate Bridge, and we say it does. The Saturn V was used in the Apollo program and helped bring Americans to the surface of the moon.
The SLS isn’t that big, but it’s actually more powerful. At 322 feet tall, it’s about 40 feet shorter than the Saturn V rocket, but its engines will produce over a million pounds of thrust more.
The Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville handled the design and development of components for the SLS rocket and most of the center stage fabrication took place at the Michoud Assembly Plant in Nova Scotia. Orleans. The solid rock thrusters were manufactured at the ATK / Orbital Science / Northrop Grumman Ogden, Utah plant.
Rocket guidance and control systems have also been developed and tested at the MSFC.
Apollo was the name of the Saturn V missions, and the new name you hear is Artemis. If you know your Greek mythology, Apollo and Artemis were twins. Artemis is the moon goddess, and this is the name associated with the SLS program.
Artemis I is expected to take off later this year or early 2022. NASA recently shared pictures from the SLS to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, and the rocket is a sight to see. Artemis I will send the unmanned Orion capsule to the moon for a four to six week mission, venturing further into deep space than any human-rated vehicle has ever been.
But how far?
We are talking about 40,000 miles beyond the moon. The mission will also carry 13 smaller 6U “hitchhiker” CubeSats (about the size of two loaves of bread), which will be released once the capsule is well on its way to the moon.
Artemis II will send the first crew to the moon, but only for a flyby mission. All the material for the Artemis II mission has been manufactured and the rocket is being assembled at the Michoud assembly plant.
Artemis III will be the first mission to send a crew to the moon in more than 50 years, and NASA says that will include a woman and a person of color. Most of the components of the Artemis III rocket have been manufactured, although assembly has not yet started.
We don’t know the launch date for Artemis I yet, but we expect NASA to announce it soon, and we’ll find out six weeks before launch. The pandemic has caused some delays, however. Recently we learned that key members of the launch team have died from COVID, according to SLS managers.
As we wait for a launch date, a local team is planning a series of events to publicize upcoming Artemis missions and our community’s role in rocket development.
US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville / Madison County Chamber and NASA-MSFC hosted a briefing September 8 at Rocket Center to share updates on Artemis and SLS with news outlets in the Huntsville area. Speakers included Rocket Center Executive Director Dr. Kimberly Robinson, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, MSFC Director Jody Singer, SLS Program Director John Honeycutt and David Beaman, Director of Engineering and Integration SLS systems.
More local events are planned, starting this month. Add them to your calendar and come join us:
- October 8: “ARTemis” march on the courthouse square
- October 4-10: World Space Week at US Space & Rocket Center, celebrating women in space
- October 30: Spooky Space Spectacular at US Space & Rocket Center
- November 6: Artemis Day on the Square – come to Square dressed as an astronaut
In addition, by January, the breweries at the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail will be serving Artemis-themed craft beers. Participating breweries include Below the Radar Brewhouse, Chandlers Ford Brewing, Fractal Brewing, Green Bus Brewing, InnerSpace Brewing Company, Mad Malts Brewing, Rocket Republic Downtown, Salty Nut Brewery, Straight to Ale, and Yellowhammer Brewing.
The Huntsville / Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau updates a special calendar with other Artemis-themed events. Visit Huntsville.org/artemis-launch-celebration for additional celebrations.