NASA has finally completed the assembly of the entire core of its new, powerful SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for the Artemis program, with which it plans to send people to the Moon and later to Mars as well.
The rocket’s core is built at the Michaud Assembly Facility in New Orleans (Louisiana), will now be moved to the Pegasus at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. There, during each stage of flight one must undergo all possible tests to check the proper operation of the rocket.
As part of the tests, the main unit will be filled with fuel and all four main engines will be started, as would be the case during the actual start. Nevertheless, during testing, the rocket will be immobilized on the historic B-2 test stand, where Saturn V rockets were tested in the sixties and seventies. During the test, the engines will run for about eight minutes, which is exactly how much they should work in carrying out a real mission.
SLS – NASA’s most powerful rocket
The Space Launch System rocket, SLS for short, is a key element of NASA’s ambitious Artemis program, which plans to land the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface by the end of 2024. After completing the rocket, it will be the strongest rocket in the world, matching the power of Saturn V, which carried the first astronauts to the moon as part of the Apollo mission over 50 years ago.
However, the rocket would have to make its first flight before this could happen. SLS has been under construction for almost a decade, the deadline to complete its work is still postponed and costs are increasing drastically. Initially, it was assumed that SLS would be flying in 2017, but currently, experts believe that they cannot expect to start before the end of 2021.
Boeing, the main contractor of SLS, plans to conduct tests of the main component of the rocket this summer, and if everything goes according to plan, it will be transported to Cape Canaveral, Florida between July and October.
In the Space Center located there John F. Kennedy, the top section will be installed on top of the main rocket, and the Orion crew capsule will be applied to it. Of course, during the first SLS flight, there will be no crew in the capsule – it will be a flight checking the correct operation of the rocket and the capsule itself.
So far, no specific start date for the Artemis 1 mission has been planned. NASA assumes that after this flight, another SLS will start a year later and this time it will be a manned flight.