KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Even more powerful than Saturn V, NASA’s next moon rocket towers over its high bay platforms in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The Orion capsule is now atop the upper stage, the core stage and the 17-story solid rocket boosters. At a peak of 322 feet, the Space Launch System is taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The rocket is for NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first SLS uncrewed launch around the moon.
In a teleconference Friday, NASA said the long-delayed maiden flight might now launch February 12. And the mission leaders are already picking a time—5:56 p.m.
‘’Completing stacking is a really important milestone. It shows that we’re in the homestretch toward the mission,’’ Artemis I Mission Manager Mike Sarafin said.
After the first mission, starting with Artemis II, astronauts will fly with SLS and Orion.
The second mission of the program is a crewed flight around the moon.
And later, Artemis III’s goal is to land on the moon—the next man and the first woman on the lunar surface.
‘’The spacecraft that will eventually take humans farther into space than ever before,’’ Orion Program Manager Cathy Koerner said.
A practice countdown and fueling test will precede the launch. That wet dress rehearsal is targeted for January.
‘’We’re ready to finish up the testing and the integration work that we’ve got to do and head to the moon,’’ SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt said.
‘Before the launch and before the rehearsal, first the rocket has to get to the pad.
NASA said the SLS could roll to launch pad 39B before the end of the year.