Ready to roll: Artemis 1 set to return to pad for launch
After more than two months, NASA is poised to try again to fly the massive Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket on its debut mission.
No earlier than 12:01 a.m. EDT (04:01 UTC) Nov. 4, 2022, NASA plans to roll the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft back to Launch Complex 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
This will be the seventh roll for the rocket stack, which had to seek safety and cover from approaching Hurricane Ian in late September.
Spaceflight Insider had a chance to speak with John Giles, the crawler element operations manager for Exploration Ground Systems, ahead of this significant roll as preparations are underway for another launch attempt for NASA’s mega Moon rocket.
Giles went on to explain that Hurricane rolls are always stressful.
There are many considerations to accommodate the last-minute transport of the rocket stack as NASA works to make the best decision possible with constant weather updates ahead of any move as engineers do not want to unnecessarily shelter the vehicle from inclement weather unless deemed appropriate.
“The actual physical move was quite smooth,” Giles said.
The Space Launch System made its way back to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building Sept. 26, several days before the storm. Giles said rolling at night proved to be successful with no weather or technical issues for crawler-transporter 2, or CT-2.
Both the rocket stack and CT-2 sheltered inside the VAB from Hurricane Ian. Normally, the crawler would deliver the vehicle inside the VAB before parking outside.
Once the SLS is taken to or from the launch pad, engineers roll the crawler to a park side and resume immediate maintenance of the rocket mover to ensure CT-2 is always prepared for work.
“We could roll over to the VAB now,” Giles said Oct. 28, regarding the readiness of the crawler.
Once the rocket starts its 10-hour trek to Launch Complex 39B, engineers will work to prime the stack for the Artemis 1 mission.
NASA is currently targeting a 69-minute window that opens at 12:07 a.m. EST (05:07 UTC) Nov. 14 to launch Artemis 1. This will be the third attempt to get the massive rocket in the air to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon. The first two were thwarted by a bad sensor and a hydrogen leak, respectively.
The Orion spacecraft will fly to a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon to test all of its systems during the course of a roughly 25-day journey. This will prepare the design for a crewed mission as early as 2024 via Artemis 2.
Assuming a launch on Nov. 14, Orion should return to Earth Dec. 9 via a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.
NASA has requested Nov. 16 and Nov. 19 as backup launch opportunities. Both dates have two-hour windows that open at 1:04 a.m. EST (06:04 UTC) and 1:45 a.m. EST (06:45 UTC), respectively.
Video courtesy of Orbital Velocity
Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It’s only natural that she would develop a passion for anything “Space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in mankind, nature, and machines. Hailing from a family of photographers—including her father and her son, Theresa herself started documenting her world through pictures at a very early age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what appeals to her heart and her love of technology to deliver a diversified approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics, and industrial utility.