SLS core stage arrives at KSC but faces “challenging” schedule

WASHINGTON — The ultimate main aspect of the primary Area Launch System rocket arrived on the Kennedy Area Middle, however NASA’s appearing administrator says will probably be “difficult” to launch the rocket earlier than the top of this yr.

The barge Pegasus arrived at KSC April 27 with the core stage of the SLS on board. Pegasus transported the core stage from the Stennis Area Middle in Mississippi, the place it had been since early 2020 for the Inexperienced Run check marketing campaign that culminated in a full-duration static-fire check March 18.

NASA will transport the core stage to the Automobile Meeting Constructing, the place staff will connect to it its two five-segment stable rocket boosters, higher stage and Orion spacecraft. It is going to then be rolled out to Launch Complicated 39B for last exams and, in the end, the Artemis 1 launch.

“With the supply of the SLS core stage for Artemis 1, now we have all of the elements of the rocket at Kennedy for the primary Artemis mission,” John Honeycutt, SLS program supervisor at NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Middle, mentioned in a press release.

That launch is notionally scheduled for late this yr, though NASA has not offered an up to date launch date for the uncrewed check flight. The NASA assertion concerning the arrival of the core stage at KSC didn’t point out its launch date.

NASA Performing Administrator Steve Jurczyk, talking at an April 27 Area Transportation Affiliation webinar, mentioned the plan continues to be to launch Artemis 1 earlier than the top of the yr. “We’re nonetheless attempting our greatest to get that launch off by the top of this calendar yr,” he mentioned. “That shall be difficult given a few of the delays that we had.”

These delays, he mentioned, embrace the technical challenges suffered by the core stage through the Inexperienced Run exams, in addition to these attributable to climate and the pandemic. Jurczyk mentioned later that these points consumed almost the entire margin within the schedule for a launch this yr.

“The schedule for Artemis 1 shall be actually difficult,” he mentioned. “If issues go actually, very well on integration of SLS and integrating Orion on the cell launch platform and rolling out, now we have an opportunity to launch by the top of the calendar yr.”

“However that is first-time circulate on a automobile at KSC,” he added, that means that that is the primary time they’ve gone via the steps of assembling the automobile parts and going via prelaunch processing. “We’ll undoubtedly encounter some challenges, so we don’t have numerous schedule reserve in opposition to launching by the top of the calendar yr.”

“If we will hit these main milestones and make progress, we’ve received a shot,” he mentioned. “If we begin lacking these milestones, then might have to consider whether or not we will make it this yr or not.”

Invoice Nelson, the Biden administration’s nominee to be NASA administrator, hinted at his affirmation listening to April 21 that the launch may slip to subsequent yr. “The primary of the Artemis mission launches inside the subsequent yr,” he acknowledged within the written model of his opening assertion, a time-frame that will prolong into early 2022.

“On the finish of the yr, maybe early subsequent yr, you’re going to see the most important rocket ever — strongest — launched,” he mentioned of SLS through the listening to. “It is going to be the workhorse on this system of going again to the moon after which on to Mars.”

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