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NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket to roll out Aug. 18 for lunar launch

Artemis 1 rocket beside Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center

The Artemis 1 stack close to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Focus on July 2, 2022.(Image credit: NASA )

NASA’s ambitious Artemis 1 moon mission is head to go back to the pad, one final time, before launch.

The Artemis 1 stack can make the roughly 4-mile (6.4 kilometers) journey from Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39B on Aug. 18, NASA confirmed on Friday (Aug. 5). The rollout could keep Artemis 1 on the right track to launch on a weeks-long uncrewed journey round the moon no sooner than Aug. 29.

Artemis 1 will put the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion spacecraft through their paces to make sure reliability before astronauts going for a similar ride a couple of years from now some rendering it completely to the lunar surface, if NASA’s plans arrived at fruition.

The coming launch follows intense system certifications and much more when compared to a decade of planning.

“Our teams have already been working difficult for an extremely, long time to access this aspect,” Rick LaBrode, lead Artemis 1 flight director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, said in a livestreamed briefing Friday. The mission, he added, “is quite special. We’re extremely excited.”

Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates

More: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission explained in photos

Artemis 1 will mark the first-ever launch for the SLS and just the next for Orion, which visited Earth orbit back 2014. If all goes in accordance with anticipate Aug. 29, the SLS will roar through the atmosphere to attain orbit in only 8.five minutes. The huge rocket’s upper stage will deploy Orion right into a translunar injection orbit about 80 to 90 minutes after liftoff.

Those milestones will start an action-packed 42 days in space for Orion, assuming liftoff occurs on Aug. 29. (The mission timing changes slightly according to the launch date.)

“There’s really virtually no time to catch our breath. We really hit the bottom running,” said Judd Frieling, Artemis 1 ascent and entry flight director at JSC.

Orion spacecraft with Earth in background

The NASA Orion spacecraft in Earth orbit. (Image credit: NASA)

As Orion soars toward the moon, the SLS upper stage will undoubtedly be tasked with deploying cubesats for lunar along with other science while pushing itself into an orbit circling sunlight.

Orion will target a lunarretrograde orbit. It’ll stay there for a number of weeks, then get yourself a gravity assist from the moon for the journey back again to Earth.

The spacecraft has three primary goals on Artemis 1, all of them made to showcase endurance. Mission associates want Orion showing it can keep coming back through Earth’s atmosphere safely, could work consistently in a “flight environment” from launch to splashdown, and may keep astronauts safe inside through the retrieval after returning home.

Outreach activities, like taking selfies of its solar power panels, will try to keep carefully the public engaged for the long journey (as Orion’s data transfer rates allow from deep space).

For instance: “Whenever we get to the stage where we’re actually the furthest away that any human-rated spacecraft ever been, beyond the Apollo vehicles went, you want to capture that in a public affairs event,” LaBrode said.

Related: How NASA’s Artemis moon landing with astronauts works

Orion’s last major milestone of the mission is a high-speed reentry through Earth’s atmosphere, targeting a splashdown site off the coast of NORTH PARK. It’ll descend in to the Pacific Ocean underneath parachutes and, right before arriving, execute a “landing orientation” maneuver to slide in to the ocean waves at the proper angle.

There, vehicle power will stay on for approximately two hours to check how well Orion does in maintaining cooling for astronauts. A U.S. Navy ship will recover Orion, fishing the spacecraft from the water, NASA officials said.

Following the mission should come months of analysis to make sure SLS and Orion are indeed prepared to carry humans. The existing schedule demands Artemis 2 to loft a moon-orbiting crew in 2024 and for Artemis 3, the initial human moon-landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972, to the touch down at first glance no sooner than 2025.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is really a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to greatly help others explore the universe. Elizabeth’s on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from the simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada’s Carleton University. Elizabeth can be a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got thinking about space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, but still really wants to be an astronaut someday.

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