NASA’s new rocket began its first voyage on Thursday ahead of a battery of tests that will clear it to the Moon this summer.
Kennedy left the Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building around 5:47 pm ET (21:47 GMT) and embarked on an 11-hour journey in a crawler-carrier to the holy Launch Complex 39B, four miles (6.5 kilometers) away.
About 10,000 people gathered to watch the event.
Huge rocket, high cost
Fixed on top of the Orion crew capsule, the Space Launch System (SLS) Block is 1,322 feet (98 meters) tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty, but slightly smaller than the Saturn V rockets that propelled Apollo missions. To the moon.
However, it will produce a maximum thrust of 8.8 million pounds (39.1 Meganewton), 15 per cent more than the Saturn Vak, which is expected to be the strongest rocket in the world at the time it starts operating.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the strongest rocket in the world ever!” NASA administrator Bill Nelson told the crowd. “We imagine, we build, we never stop pushing the envelope of what’s possible.”
The symbol of U.S. space ambition also comes at a high price: $ 4.1 billion (approximately $ 31,176,605 million) for the first four Artemis missions per shot, NASA chief inspector Paul Martin told Congress this month.
After launching it, there are about two more weeks of checks before the so-called “wet rehearsal”.
The SLS team will load more than 700,000 liters (3.2 million liters) of cryogenic propellants into the rocket and work through all the phases of the countdown to launch, stopping ten seconds before it explodes.
To the moon and beyond
NASA is targeting the earliest window on Artemis-1, the unmanned lunar mission, which will be the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion in May.
The SLS will first place Orion in a low Earth orbit, and then, using its upper phase, make the so-called trans-injection moon.
This maneuver is necessary to send Orion 280,000 kilometers from Earth and 40,000 kilometers from the Moon, far beyond any daring spacecraft capable of transporting humans.
In a three-week mission, Orion will deploy 10 shoe-sized satellites known as CubeSats to gather information about the deep space environment.
There will be three mannequins and a snoopy plush toy, NASA’s long mascot, collecting radiation data from local “travelers.”
It will fly on the far side of the moon, propelled by the European Space Agency (ESA), and eventually return to Earth, where it will test its heat shield against the atmosphere.
It occurs in the Pacific Splashdown off the coast of California.
This will be the first test of the Artemis-2 crew, which will fly around the Moon but not land, and Artemis-3, scheduled for 2025, will touch the first woman of color and the first person at the South Pole of the Moon.
NASA wants to build a permanent presence on the Moon and use it as a test of the technologies needed for a Mars mission in the 2030s, using the evolution of Block 2 of SLS.
SLS v Starship NASA calls the SLS a “super heavy lift exploration class vehicle.” The only heavy rocket that works today is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which is smaller.
Elon Musk’s company is developing its own deep space rocket, a fully reusable Starship, and said it should be ready for an orbital test this year.
It would be bigger and stronger than the Starship SLS: a height of 394 meters with a thrust of 17 million pounds. It could also be considerably cheaper.
The Tycoon has suggested that within a year, the cost of each launch could be $ 10 million (approximately $ 76.03 million).
Direct comparisons are complicated by the fact that while SLS is designed to fly directly to its destinations, SpaceX plans to put one spacecraft into orbit and then equip it with another spacecraft so that it can continue its journey, expanding its reach and payload.
NASA has also hired a version of Starship as a moon-landing vehicle for Artemis.
Other heavy rockets under development include Blue Origin’s New Glenn, China’s Long March 9 and Russia’s Yenisei.