CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA rolled out its Space Launch System rocket for a critical test of its engine.
The space agency began rolling out the rocket for the first time around 6 p.m. Thursday to run integrated testing on it and the Orion capsule at the Kennedy Space Center. The rollout was completed Friday morning.
The 322-foot-tall rocket with two heavy rocket boosters weighs in at 18 million pounds and is for NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first SLS uncrewed launch around the moon.
Thursday’s rollout is part of a “wet dress rehearsal” process that will encompass everything up to and including the fueling of the rocket and a final countdown to launch simulation, according to News 6 partner Florida Today. It will then spend about a month on the pad during the prep, test and post-test phases, then roll back to the VAB for final work.
“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,” said Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development at NASA.
The Artemis program is the long-awaited NASA program to take Americans back to the moon and beyond, possibly to Mars.
If the first mission is successful, it will be followed by a crewed test mission that will orbit the moon. If that mission is successful, Artemis III’s goal will be to land on the moon.
Currently, Artemis I is slated to launch no earlier than May with other opportunities available in June and July as needed.