NASA sets late August and early September launch dates for Artemis 1

WASHINGTON — NASA has reserved three days in late August and early September for the primary launch of its Area Launch System rocket to ship the Orion spacecraft to orbit across the moon and again.

At a July 20 briefing, NASA officers introduced that they’d goal launch dates of Aug. 29, Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 for the Artemis 1 mission, an uncrewed check flight of the Orion spacecraft and the primary launch of the SLS. Orion will spend as much as six weeks in cislunar house earlier than splashing down off the coast of San Diego.

“We expect we’re on a very good path to get to makes an attempt on these dates,” Jim Free, NASA affiliate administrator for exploration programs growth, mentioned on the decision.

Crews have been engaged on SLS and Orion because it returned to the Car Meeting Constructing (VAB) July 2 after the fourth moist gown rehearsal check, the place the rocket was loaded with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants and put by means of a observe countdown. That included work to repair a liquid hydrogen leak on the core stage discovered throughout that check.

Throughout that work, technicians found a unfastened becoming, referred to as a collet, the place the liquid hydrogen umbilical connects to the rocket. That required going into the rocket’s engine part to tighten the becoming. “That really gave us a little bit pause of questioning if we had been going to have the ability to make a launch date on these three dates,” Free mentioned. With these repairs full, he mentioned he was extra assured about being prepared for these dates.

Free and different NASA officers on the decision cautioned they nonetheless had work to carry out on each SLS and Orion to get the autos prepared for launch. If these preparations stay on schedule, the car would roll again out to Launch Complicated 39B round Aug. 18, though a last choice on continuing with a launch try would come solely after a flight readiness evaluate a couple of week earlier than launch.

The three launch dates have completely different launch home windows and mission durations:

  • The Aug. 29 launch window opens at 8:33 a.m. Jap for 2 hours, and would end in a 42-day mission ending with a splashdown Oct. 10.
  • The Sept. 2 launch window opens at 12:48 p.m. Jap for 2 hours, and would end in a 39-day mission splashing down Oct. 11.
  • The Sept. 5 launch window opens at 5:12 p.m. Jap for 90 minutes, and would end in a 42-day mission splashing down Oct. 17.
  • All three are thought of “long-class” missions by NASA, whereas launch alternatives on different days as an alternative help shorter missions lasting about 4 weeks. “We don’t have a powerful choice of whether or not it’s a short- or long-class mission,” mentioned Mike Sarafin, NASA Artemis mission supervisor. Each help all of the mission aims of testing the launch car and spacecraft, with a selected emphasis on demonstrating Orion’s warmth protect on a reentry at lunar return velocities.

    One complication for launch planning is the batteries for the rocket’s flight termination system (FTS). That features conducting a launch not more than 20 days after a last check of the system. “With our three makes an attempt, we do have points with that timing,” mentioned Cliff Lanham, senior car operations supervisor in NASA’s Exploration Floor Programs program. NASA is working with the Jap Vary to see if there are methods to handle that situation.

    One other situation is that the FTS batteries are situated on parts of the SLS not accessible on the pad. That signifies that, if the car rolls out to the pad in August however doesn’t launch by Sept. 5, it must return the VAB for extra testing and reset of the clock.

    That will make it troublesome to have the car prepared for the subsequent launch interval, which runs from Sept. 20 to Oct. 4. “That will be an actual problem for us, to be sincere with you,” Lanham mentioned of launching throughout that timeframe. “However we will surely give it our greatest shot.” The next launch interval runs from Oct. 17 to 31.

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