The first moon-bound rocket and spacecraft in NASA’s Artemis program are expected to do a “wet trial” on the launch pad in February, the agency said.
Engineers for the mission, which is due to launch later this year, have subjected the mission’s hardware to a series of checks to ensure it is ready for the milestone, which will be critical in determining Artemis 1’s readiness for flight.
Artemis 1 aims to send an unmanned spacecraft around the moon using a combination of the Space Launch System rocket, or SLS with the Orion spacecraft. Remembering that the set has never flown together before, Orion did a test in 2014 and the SLS never flew. NASA hopes to extend the program with the manned Artemis 2 mission into lunar orbit in 2024, then with a landing on Artemis 3 in 2025.
But getting ready for the launch pad requires a complex set of engineering tasks to ensure all the pieces are ready for the stress of spaceflight. NASA completed several checkpoints in the past month, the agency noted in two recent blog posts.
On Tuesday (January 11), the crew access arm of the Orion spacecraft was retracted and extended to ensure it functions properly, NASA said in a blog post Thursday (January 13).
The arm is intended to provide safe access for astronauts to the SLS rocket during missions and also serves technicians during assembly and test operations at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As for the SLS itself, on Friday (January 14) NASA reported that a “series of engineering tests” had been completed on the vehicle’s core booster, which is also inside the VAB.
The first task was to replace and test one of the four RS-25 engine controllers and then the team went on to ensure that the flight computers, engine controllers and main booster systems were communicating and working properly. Technicians also tested “gimbaling” or slightly moving the engines to simulate the movements they will perform during flight.
With everything going according to plan, the team plans to run its second countdown test “to demonstrate the ground launch software and ground launch sequencer, which checks the health and status of the vehicle while on the block,” it said. to NASA. The goal is to ensure that Orion and the SLS are responding as expected during the simulated countdown.
The stacked spacecraft and thruster will head to the nearby launch pad once the countdown test and final checks are complete, the agency noted, but has yet to provide a date for the transfer.