NASA delays SLS rollout, sets up late spring for first Artemis moon mission

Teams are not working any major issues, officials say

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Rollout and final unmanned testing of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket has been delayed to March at the earliest, the agency said on its blog Wednesday.

According to the update, NASA is now reviewing launch opportunities in April and May. Stacking of the rocket was completed in October 2021 and liftoff of the unmanned Artemis I mission was originally scheduled for this month, the agency said.

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NASA said its engineers are performing final integrated tests of the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft prior to rolling the stacked configuration out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center to launch pad 39B for a “wet dress rehearsal,” in which the rocket and launch team will conduct a full launch countdown, the agency said. If that final test is successful, the stack will return to the VAB for final checks before a date is set for launch, the agency said.

In a live teleconference Wednesday, a panel of NASA officials answered reporters’ questions about the update. Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, said the delay was not due to any major issues, but rather was for final tests NASA would apply to any rocket before rollout.

“There’s no one specific thing, we just have a lot of things that we need to close out, it’s a big vehicle, it’s a lot of instrumentation that needs to be finished and prepared for the final closeout activities,” Whitmeyer said. “I like to think of it (as) if you had work being done on your kitchen and you’re down to a punch list, we’re basically down to a punch list of things we need to complete, it could be something simple as a scratch that needs to be polished out or some paint that needs to be fixed, there’s just a lot of that, it’s just a really big vehicle.”

Following potential success with Artemis I, NASA will seek to prove the Orion capsule’s life-support capabilities with a manned Artemis II mission around the moon and back to Earth. After this, Artemis III will attempt to land the first woman and next man on the moon itself, the agency said.

Listen to the teleconference below:

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Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.