NASA to conduct elaborate dress rehearsal with new megarocket this weekend

NASA is rehearsing all of the important procedures it will have to take when the Space Launch System launches for the first time during the next three days. It’s a big milestone in the rocket’s development and one of the final major tests before it may fly this summer.

NASA to conduct elaborate dress rehearsal with new megarocket this weekend

The agency’s new flagship rocket, the SLS, will take people and cargo into deep space. It’s part of NASA’s Artemis mission, which aims to send a woman and a person of colour to the Moon by the mid-2020s. SLS is planned to launch NASA’s new crew capsule named Orion, which will bring future people to the lunar surface.


But first, SLS must launch. Its first flight, Artemis I, is likewise a practise. The rocket will send Orion on a four- to six-week journey around the Moon to demonstrate its capabilities. But first, NASA wants to do a wet dress rehearsal of the whole launch process. The word “wet” alludes to the fact that NASA flight controllers expect to load the rocket’s tanks with ultracold liquid fuel on launch day. “It closely tracks launch countdown,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA’s Artemis launch director. “There are tiny variances, but they are minimal.” The primary difference is that the countdown will not reach zero, hence there will be no launch.

It’s been over a decade in the making. NASA and Boeing have been working on SLS since the early 2010s, with several delays and cost overruns. On March 17th, the SLS rocket moved out of NASA’s historic Vehicle Assembly Building and onto its main launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launchpad, LC-39B, was utilised for several Apollo and Space Shuttle flights.

This time around, NASA wants to make sure that the SLS infrastructure works together for the first time. In addition to the huge movable launch platform needed to sustain the rocket during launch, the ground support systems comprise different tanks and structures used to feed cryogenic fuel into the rocket. “The mobile launcher has hundreds of components that must work,” said Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development.