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NASA’s Next Generation Artemis Moon Rocket Tanks Launched for the First Time

NASA's Next Generation Artemis Moon Rocket Tanks Launched for the First Time

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept. 3 (Reuters) – Ground teams at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday began refueling NASA’s giant Next-Generation rocket for its first launch on an unmanned test flight to the Moon, five days after an initial launch attempt. He was frustrated by technical problems.

The 32-story Long Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion capsule were scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:17 p.m. EDT (1817 GMT), beginning the launch of the space agency’s ambitious Artemis rocket. America from the Moon to Mars. The program is 50 years after the last Apollo lunar mission. (fee: https://tmsnrt.rs/3PPRsbN)

The previous launch attempt on Monday was halted due to engineering obstacles. NASA says technicians have since addressed these issues.

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Weather is an additional factor beyond NASA’s control. The latest forecast saw a 70% chance of favorable conditions during Saturday’s two-hour window, according to the US Space Force at Cape Canaveral.

Before dawn, launch teams began the long, delicate process of filling the rocket’s primary stage fuel tanks with several hundred thousand gallons of supercooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel.

The engineers stopped loading the liquid hydrogen around 7:30 a.m., about an hour after the complex process of fixing the leak.

If the countdown stops again, NASA may reschedule another launch attempt for Monday or Tuesday.

Dubbed Artemis I, the mission marks the first flight of both the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, built under NASA contracts with Boeing Co. (ban) And Lockheed Martin (LMT.N)Straight.

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It also marks a significant change in direction for NASA’s post-Apollo human spaceflight program, after decades of focusing on low Earth orbit with the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

Named after the goddess who was the twin sister of Apollo in ancient Greek mythology, Artemis aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface as early as 2025, although many experts believe the time frame is likely to slip.

Twelve astronauts walked on the Moon during the six Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972, the only spaceflights that did not put humans on the Moon. But Apollo, born into the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, was less dependent on science than Artemis.

The new moon program has enlisted commercial partners such as SpaceX and space agencies in Europe, Canada and Japan to establish a long-term lunar base of operations as a staging ground for more ambitious human missions to Mars.

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Getting the SLS-Orion spacecraft out of Earth is an essential first step. Its maiden flight aims to put the 5.75-million-pound craft in its stride on a rigorous test flight that pushes the limits of its design and aims to prove the spacecraft is fit for flight to astronauts.

If the mission is successful, Artemis II’s manned flight around the moon and back could come as early as 2024, to be followed in a few more years with the program’s first lunar landing, one of them a woman, with Artemis III.

Rated as the world’s most powerful complex rocket, the SLS represents the largest new vertical launch system NASA has built since Saturn V in the Apollo era.

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Barring last-minute difficulties, Saturday’s countdown should come to an end with the rocket’s four main RS-25 engines and twin solid-propellant boosters producing 8.8 million pounds of thrust, about 15% more than a Saturn V, sending the spacecraft into the sky.

About 90 minutes after launch, the rocket’s upper stage will propel Orion out of Earth’s orbit on its course for a 37-day journey that will take it to within 60 miles of the lunar surface before sailing 40,000 miles (64374 km) behind the moon and back to Earth. The capsule is expected to fall into the Pacific Ocean on October 11.

Although there are no humans on board, Orion will carry a simulator crew of three – one male and two mannequins – equipped with sensors to measure radiation and other stresses that astronauts might encounter in real life.

The spacecraft is also set to launch a payload of 10 miniature science satellites, called CubeSats, including one designed to map the abundance of icy sediments on the moon’s south pole.

The mission’s top goal is to test the durability of Orion’s heat shield during re-entry as it hits Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 mph (39,429 km/h), or 32 times the speed of sound, upon its return from lunar orbit — much faster than the most common re-entry for reentry capsules. from Earth’s orbit.

The heat shield is designed to withstand re-entry friction expected to raise temperatures outside the capsule to approximately 5,000°F (2760°C).

More than a decade in development With years of delays and budget overruns, the SLS-Orion spacecraft has so far cost NASA at least $37 billion. NASA’s Office of Inspector General has forecast that total Artemis costs will reach $93 billion by 2025.

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NASA defends the program as a boon to space exploration that generates tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade.

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(Reporting by Joey Roulette) in Cape Canaveral, Florida and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Frances Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.