Huber Red/Getty Images
NASA is once again counting down the hours until the first flight test of its new 32-story Artemis rocket, the one the agency hopes will bring astronauts back to the moon in just a few years.
The space agency is struggling to get the multibillion-dollar rocket off the ground so it can send a capsule – without a crew on board – around the moon and back, allowing managers to perform critical tests of its systems . Liftoff is now targeted for a two-hour window that opens at 1:04 a.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 16, and weather at the Florida launch site looks promising.
Jeremy Parsons, deputy director of the Exploration Ground Systems program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, told reporters Monday night that “the countdown is going very well so far and we’re on schedule.”
A successful launch would be a key milestone for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. The agency has not launched a spacecraft intended to send astronauts to the moon since 1972.
The Artemis rocket’s first launch attempt in August was canceled due to a faulty motor sensor. After that, hydrogen leaks forced the agency to make repairs. Then Hurricane Ian rolled in and forced the rocket back into its hangar, which Parsons called “a little disappointing.”
And once the massive rocket returned to its launch pad on the Florida coast, it was destroyed by Hurricane Nicole, which turned out to be a stronger storm than officials had anticipated.
Mission leaders spent a lot of time discussing hurricane damage to a thin strip of caulking material that fills a small gap at the top of the rocket where Orion’s crew capsule sits. . Some of this material has torn off and is too high to repair.
One concern was that more pieces could be dislodged during liftoff and hit other parts of the rocket. But NASA’s Mike Sarafin, the Artemis I mission manager, said engineers had thoroughly analyzed the situation and felt it was okay to fly.
“We went through this today and we closed this action item,” Sarafin told reporters on a conference call on Monday. “I asked if there were any dissenting opinions, there were none, and we accepted that flight justification.”
He says that because the Artemis team has persevered through all of these recent setbacks, “it gives me reassurance that we’ll be ready when it’s time to fly.”
“Our time is coming. And we hope it will be Wednesday,” Sarafin said. “But if Wednesday isn’t the day, we’ll get over that next hurdle, that next trial, and persevere through it.”
Some spaceflight experts have criticized NASA’s new rocket, saying it’s far too expensive to be sustainable – the first three flights are expected to cost more than $4 billion each.
And this rocket will not fly so often. The next flight, to send astronauts around the moon, will not take place for two years. A moon landing will not take place before 2025 at the earliest.
But building this big rocket has been a major focus of NASA’s human spaceflight program since it stopped flying space shuttles in 2011.
To focus on the moon and deep space, the agency has outsourced routine trips to the International Space Station to commercial contractors. Space capsules operated by private company SpaceX, founded by wealthy entrepreneur Elon Musk, transport cargo and function as space taxis for astronauts.
NASA has selected SpaceX to build the lunar lander that will take astronauts from a capsule orbiting the moon to the surface. And SpaceX also has a large rocket in development called Starship, which is designed to be reusable and cheaper than NASA’s Artemis rocket.
#NASAs #Artemis #moon #rocket #hours #launch #finally #fly