NASA’s new moon rocket will return to launchpad in June

NASA’s all-new Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket and Orion spacecraft will return to the launchpad for final testing in “early June,” the space agency announced at the weekend.

A so-called “wet dress rehearsal” of NASA’s next-generation lunar rocket was abandoned last month after several issues surfaced during the process at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A wet dress rehearsal involves filling the rocket with fuel and performing a countdown as if for an actual launch. But during April’s effort, various technical issues emerged that prompted engineers to return the rocket to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building until they could resolve the issues.

“Engineers successfully completed work on a number of items observed during the previous wet dress rehearsal test,” NASA said recently in a message on its website. “This includes addressing the liquid hydrogen system leak at the tail service mast umbilical, replacing the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (the connection between the mobile launcher and the upper stage) gaseous helium system check valve and support hardware, modifying the [propulsion stage’s] umbilical purge boots, and confirming there are no impacts to Orion as a result of storms and subsequent water intrusion at the launchpad.”

The space agency added that the team also updated software to address issues encountered during the fueling stage in those earlier rehearsal efforts.

NASA’s SLS transportation system is destined to launch a new era of lunar exploration when it lands the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the moon before the end of this decade. Before that, two test flights will take place. Artemis I will send an uncrewed Orion on a flyby of the moon before returning to Earth, while Artemis II will send a crew on the same flight. The highly anticipated Artemis III mission will put the first humans on the lunar surface since the Apollo flights five decades ago.

If the upcoming wet dress rehearsal goes to plan, NASA said it expects to launch the Artemis I mission using the SLS rocket and Orion in August this year, with launch windows available in the first 10 days of the month and also in the final week.

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