NASA’s SLS (Space launch System) is all around impressive. It will b the largest most powerful rocket to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center and bring about an new era of spaceflight. But that makes it sound so simple, really when you break down the mission, the rocket, and the work that went into it things really start to come clearer with what this mission will entail.
For Starters, SLS will reach a sped of 24,500 mph (miles per hour), yes that really says miles per hour. That is the max speed the Orion spacecraft is expected to reach and will happen upon its reentry to Earth’s atmosphere. If that means nothing to you, think of it this way, the average bullet only travels at about 1800 mph when shot from a gun. 1.8 million miles is the total distance Artemis I will travel, 280,000 of those miles is what Orion will travel just to get beyond the Moon.
Does eight fully loaded jumbo jets sound like a lot? Sounds heavy if you ask me. Well that or 5.8 million pounds is what the Space Launch System will weigh at lift off. NASA also saved about five thousand pounds of added weight when making the SLS by making the rocket a single use system instead of reusable. Two million of those pounds is also taken up by the fuel of those twin SRBs (Solid Rocket Boosters) and that fuel will be fully used up within two minutes of ignition. A whopping 90,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen will be burned every single minute for eight minutes after ignition by the four RS-25 engines that reside under SLS’s core stage. Keep in mind, it will only take three minutes and forty seconds for the 322 foot tall rocket to reach orbit after lifting off. The total thrust of the Space Launch System produces to leave Earth’s atmosphere is 8.8 million pounds, which is equal to 126 Airbus A380s. and what also makes it the most powerful rocket NASA has ever launched.
After those eight minutes of burning fuel, SLS will reach an altitude of one-hundred miles, this is where the core stage will separate and fall into the Pacific Ocean, landing due East of Hawaii. Just one hour and fifty-three seconds after launch the remaining upper stage will be 2,400 miles above Earth and will detach from the Orion capsule as it continues on to the Moon. Eight to fourteen days later Orion will reach the moon and beyond as it continues its six week journey before returning to Earth and splashing down off the coast of San Diego, California. During that reentry period the Orion capsule’s heat shield will reach a temperature of 5,000 degree Fahrenheit. That’s almost the temperature of our sun! Once Orion is inside our atmosphere it will use eleven parachutes to slow itself from 324 mph to 17 mph at splashdown. Those chutes will deploy in a precise sequence to slow the spacecraft down and ensure the survival of all who will one day be onboard.
We are now within twenty-four hours of the expected T-zero mark and excitement is building all along the space coast. The Max A. Brewer bridge is planning to close down to vehicle traffic at 8:00 pm E.T. this evening and hundreds of cars and campers are already parked along the roadways in town. The launch forecast has improved to 80% acceptable conditions for lift off and we hope NASA hits no snags along the countdown so we can all watch history being made tomorrow morning.