Artemis I Moon rocket now at Kennedy Space Center launch pad after rollout

Uncrewed launch targeted for as early as Aug. 29

The Space Launch Systems rocket sits on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. (NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA’s Artemis I mission rocket is now at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, and now the final preparations are underway for its first launch.

Crews targeted 9 p.m. Tuesday to start the rollout of the Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft on top. Storms in the area prompted the agency to announce delays, though the rollout went ahead shortly after 10 p.m.

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The launch vehicle reached the pad Wednesday, less than two weeks until its planned Aug. 29 test flight. The rocket, considered the most powerful ever built, now occupies Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center.

This was the rocket’s third trip to a launch pad. A countdown test in April was marred by fuel leaks and other equipment trouble, forcing NASA to return the rocket to the hangar for repairs. The dress rehearsal was repeated at the pad in June, with improved results.

NASA has three possible launch dates for this first mission of the Artemis program:

  • Aug. 29: Two-hour launch window opens at 8:33 a.m., 42-day mission with an Oct. 10 splashdown
  • Sept. 2: Two-hour launch window opens at 12:48 p.m., 39-day mission with an Oct. 11 splashdown
  • Sept. 5: One-and-a-half-hour launch window opens at 5:12 p.m., 42-day mission with an Oct. 17 splashdown

People on the Space Coast are excited for the historic launch of NASA’s newest rocket.

I just really can’t imagine,” said Karen Jennings, who can see the launch pad from her condo overlooking the Indian River. “I’m sure the roar is going to be tremendous. I anticipate the windows shaking on the house and just the ground rumbling.”

Artemis I — the first launch — will be an uncrewed flight to orbit the moon with three mannequins on board, including one named “Commander Moonequin Campos.”

The mission will be intensive for the crews back on land as they test the spacecraft systems, including the heat shield, which can not be properly tested on Earth.

If successful, the next mission — Artemis II — will take two astronauts to the moon’s orbit in two years. Artemis III will see the first woman land on the moon as early as 2025, NASA anticipates.

“It’s a shame that it’s taken us so long to get back there again, you know I’m just so thrilled that we’re to that point again,” Jennings said.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is selling viewing packages for the Artemis I launch. Prices for the three packages start at $99 per person and go as high as $250.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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About the Authors:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.