You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Final puzzle piece for Artemis I rocket set for trip to Kennedy Space Center

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 4/22/2021 Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel

The Artemis I rocket NASA plans to send to the moon will finally be getting its largest piece when the Space Launch System core stage makes its way to Kennedy Space Center.

Prime contractor Boeing has signed off on the stage after going through a full hot fire test last month, the completion of eight “Green Run” tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center to make sure the 212-foot-tall piece of hardware with four engines converted from the Space Shuttle program would be set to make the flight to the moon.

“Data from Green Run testing validated the core stage’s successful operation and will be used to help certify the stage for flight, as well as to inform our production system for future stages,” said John Shannon, SLS vice president and program manager for Boeing.

Earlier this week, the core stage was lifted out of the B-2 Test stand and readied for its upcoming horizontal journey by water.

The next step is for NASA to schedule transport of the core stage via its Pegasus barge to KSC, where it will be stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building with the rest of the SLS components including the external boosters and Orion capsule already on site. The barge trip will take six days through the Gulf of Mexico.

In early 2020, Boeing and NASA’s announced the core stage could have made it to KSC as early as July that year, but delays from hurricanes, COVID-19 and an incomplete hot fire test earlier in 2021 kept pushing the final sign off.

The core stage will be combined with two side boosters from NASA partner Northrop Grumman that together will produce about 8.8 million pounds of thrust, making it the most powerful rocket to launch from Earth.

Artemis I will be an uncrewed mission to the moon, but actually traveling farther from Earth than any ship ever built for humans has ever flown before, about 280,000 miles away.

NASA’s SLS schedule still has Artemis I launching as early as November with Artemis II, a crewed mission around the moon without landing, by 2023 and then a 2024 flight that aims to put the first woman on the moon. Those targets, though, were part of the Trump administration’s push and could change under the new Biden administration.

Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk would not put a solid date on any updated Artemis I plans, but said last week it needs to be done “as quickly and safely as possible.”

President Joe Biden’s nominee to become the new NASA administrator, former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who himself once flew on the space shuttle, said during a Wednesday meeting of the Senate commerce, science and transportation committee that he expects Artemis I could still fly before the end of the year.

“At the end of the year, perhaps early next year, you’re going to see the largest rocket ever - most powerful launched - that is going to be the workhorse of the program of going back to the moon and then on to Mars, which was a multi-administration project,” Nelson said. “These projects are not one administration. They’re many. It’s like building an aircraft carrier. You start it and it will take you years down the road, and it has to be continued regardless of who’s in the majority, regardless of who’s in the presidency. And so too we are seeing this and we will see the fulfillment of these programs.”

AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon