NASA’s new moon rocket begins rollout en route to launch pad tests
NASA’s next-generation moon rocket began to roll out its assembly plant en route to the launch pad in Florida on Thursday for a final round of tests in the coming weeks. The final test will determine the efficiency of the spacecraft.
The tests will determine how soon the spacecraft can fly. Rollout of the 32-story-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion crew capsule marks a key milestone for renewed lunar exploration. It cost some $37 billion to develop the spacecraft including ground systems.
If the test goes well, the rocket will be declared ready for a mission, in which it will send an uncrewed test capsule around the Moon. The mission is reportedly part of NASA’s Artemis programme.
The process of moving the 5.75-million-pound SLS-Orion spacecraft out of its Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building began at 17:47 local Florida time at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
A band from the University of Central Florida played the National Anthem as the rollout began in front of NASA’s employees. While watching the roll-out, NASA chief Bill Nelson said, “The Artemis generation is preparing to reach new frontiers.” Nelson also called Artemis an “economic engine” that in 2019 generated $14 billion in commerce in the United States (US).
Among those in the crowd was former astronaut Tom Stafford. He orbited the moon as commander of Apollo 10 in 1969.
The rollout was delayed last month by a series of technical hurdles. However, the agency resolved the issue soon. According to Reuters, NASA said it will review the potential Artemis I launch windows in April and May. However, the timeline might slip depending on the results of the dress rehearsal.
Last year, NASA announced that it would aim to achieve its first human lunar landing of Artemis as early as 2025.