Cape Canaveral, FL-
NASA has now officially given a timeline of the projected first launch of the Artemis I mission. February 12th, 2022 a fifteen day window opens for the agency to get it’s biggest rocket ever off the ground and into the heavens. This mission will launch uncrewed, but is the first test of returning mankind to the Moon, a goal NASA hopes to reach by 2024, stating they will put the next man, and first woman on the moon.
On October 20th of this year we saw the Orion crew capsule was placed on top of the 322 foot tall behemoth, an important milestone for the launch. It shows the mission is finally in the home stretch of becoming reality. With many years of setbacks this comes as a major relief to thousands who’ve worked tirelessly towards the lift off of this mission. Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development at NASA headquarters told reporters that now that the rocket it fully stacked the next step is to roll it out to launch complex 39B in late December for testing, which will be followed by a wet dress rehearsal in early January. From there the rocket will be brought back inside the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) until it is brought back to the pad for the last time before it lifts off.
Engineers from NASA centers across the country have worked for years on the development of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, though the majority of the rockets hardware was assembled and tested in NASA’s Michoud Assembly facility and the Stennis Space Center before it was all transported to Cape Canaveral for the final stacking. It is powered by four RS-25 engines, those same ones the Space Shuttle used along with twin solid rocket boosters that all combined will give it 8.8 million pounds of thrust. That’s almost one million more pounds of thrust than the Saturn V rocket had. With all the components arriving to the Kennedy Space Center over time it has been stacked together in the same High Bay where NASA engineers built the Saturn V moon rocket. In another nod to Apollo the missions are called Artemis, who was in ancient mythology the sister of Apollo.
Once checkouts and tests are run on the launch systems and all is cleared to go Artemis I will wait a few weeks inside the VAB before rolling out about six days ahead of the launch window. If the timeline holds and the mission stays at February 12th, it will have a twenty one minute window on the first day which opens at 5:56 PM Est. If things delay past that day then the other opportunities vary day by day with windows being adjusted by a few minutes up to a few hours.
Cover photo credit: NASA