A 322-foot (98-meter) stack of Artemis I rockets, including NASA’s massive Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, began rehearsal Friday afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The testing is expected to continue until Sunday.
The results will determine when I will leave my drone Artemis on a mission beyond the Moon and back to Earth. This mission will launch NASA’s Artemis program, which is expected to return humans to the moon and land the first women and men on the moon by 2025.
The test simulates each stage of the launch without the missile leaving the launch pad. This includes powering up the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, loading supercooled propellant into the rocket’s tanks, running a countdown to simulate a full launch, resetting the countdown clock, and drying the rocket’s tanks. Testing began calling stations at 5 p.m. ET on Friday and will end Sunday night with the final countdown.
The station call, which is a check-in with all teams associated with the launch, “is a milestone because it’s time to call our teams, and tell them that wetsuit training testing is officially underway.” Artemis launch, said Charlie Blackwell Thompson. Director of the NASA Earth Exploration Systems Program. , during a press conference on Tuesday.
Trial run includes countdown
Once the rocket is loaded with more than 700,000 gallons (3.2 million liters) of propellant — “wet” in testing — the team will go through all the steps before launch.
According to the agency, “some venting can be seen during the venting,” but this is related to what is visible on the launch pad.
“Liquid hydrogen is below 450 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 268 degrees Celsius), and liquid oxygen is negative at 273 (minus 169 degrees Celsius), so these are very cold materials,” Tom Whitmaier, deputy associate director for exploration systems development at NASA Headquarters, said during Press conference.” “I was doing it back in the Shuttle Show, and it was like watching a ballet dance. You have pressure, volume, and temperature. And you really work on all of these parameters to have a successful tank operation.”
Team members will count 1 minute and 30 seconds before launch and pause to make sure they keep running for three minutes, resume the clock and allow it to slow down to 33 seconds, then pause the countdown.
They will then reset the clock to 10 minutes before launch, count down again, and finish at 9.3 seconds, before ignition and firing occur. This simulates a so-called launch purification, or aborted launch attempt, if weather or technical issues prevent a safe takeoff.
At the end of the test, the team will drain the rocket’s propellant, just as it would during a real cleanup.
Some steps will be classified
Key milestones will be shared on NASA’s website, Whitmer said, but details such as exact times, temperatures and time required to perform certain tasks “are considered important information by other nations.” “And so we have to be really careful when sharing data, especially for the first time, you know.”
This is for a reason.
“We are very, very, very sensitive to cryogenic launch vehicles in terms of size and capacity, which are very similar to the ballistic capabilities that other nations are interested in,” Whitmer said. “And what they’re looking for specifically are chronological flow rates, temperatures, and anything that helps them or helps others who are likely to help others do similar things.”
He said the complex interaction between fuel loading and the sequence of events to avoid vehicle fatigue is the specific types of data that will be of particular interest.
Whitmer stressed that the agency was conservative and exercised a lot of caution “especially in the environment in which we live today.”
Expect the summer release
The space agency is expected to provide an update on test results on Monday.
Depending on the test result, the unmanned mission could begin in June or July.
During the flight, the unmanned Orion spacecraft will blast above an SLS rocket to reach the moon and travel thousands of kilometers behind it – farther than any spacecraft intended to transport humans has traveled. This mission should last a few weeks and will end with Orion spray in the Pacific Ocean.
Artemis I will be Orion’s last test place before the spacecraft takes astronauts to the Moon, 1,000 times more than the International Space Station site.
After Artemis I’s uncrewed flight, Artemis II will be a lunar flight and Artemis III will return astronauts to the lunar surface. The launch schedule for subsequent missions is based on the results of the Artemis I mission.
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