Artemis I Stack Ready to Rock(et) and Roll

SLS rocket
In this view looking up in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, all of the work platforms that surround the Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft are fully retracted on March 16, 2022. The Artemis I stack atop the mobile launcher will roll out to Launch Complex 39B atop the crawler-transporter 2 for a wet dress rehearsal ahead of launch. Photo credits: NASA/Glenn Benson

NASA’s new Moon rocket stands poised inside Kennedy Space Center’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building ahead of its first journey to the launch pad. Comprised of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, and sitting on its mobile launcher, the Artemis I Moon-bound rocket is ready to roll March 17 to Launch Complex 39B for its wet dress rehearsal test targeted to begin on April 1.

The dress rehearsal will demonstrate the team’s ability to load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic, or super-cold, propellants into the rocket at the launch pad, practice every phase of the launch countdown, and drain propellants to demonstrate safely standing down on a launch attempt. The test will be the culmination of months of assembly and testing for SLS and Orion, as well as preparations by launch control and engineering teams, and set the stage for the first Artemis launch.

The uncrewed Artemis I mission is the first flight of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft together. Future missions will send people to work in lunar orbit and on the Moon’s surface. With the Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and establish long-term exploration in preparation for missions to Mars. SLS and Orion, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway that will orbit the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration.

Live coverage for rollout begins at 5 p.m. EDT and will include live remarks from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and other guests. Coverage will air on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Live, static camera views of the debut and arrival at the pad will be available starting at 4 p.m. EDT on the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube channel.

Rollout of NASA’s Mega Moon Rocket Inches Closer with Addition of Worm Logo

Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida drove Crawler Transporter-2 on March 11, 2022 to the doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Soon, it will go inside the VAB where it will carry the Artemis I Moon rocket to launch pad 39B.
Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida drove Crawler Transporter-2 on March 11, 2022 to the doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Soon, it will go inside the VAB where it will carry the Artemis I Moon rocket to launch pad 39B. Photo credit: NASA/Chad Siwik

Earlier today, engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida drove Crawler Transporter-2, which will carry NASA’s Moon rocket to the launch pad, to the doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Soon, the 6.6-million-pound crawler will go inside the VAB and slide under the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft placed on the Mobile Launcher. Technicians will finish up preparations to transport the rocket traveling at a top speed of 1 mph to Launch Complex 39B for a wet dress rehearsal test ahead of the Artemis I launch.

This week, the Kennedy team also completed painting the NASA worm logo on the Space Launch System solid rocket boosters. While painters added parts of the iconic logo before the segments were stacked, they had to wait until the boosters were fully assembled to finish the job.

In addition, the team has continued to retract the 20 platforms that surround the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft ahead of rollout on March 17 for the wet dress rehearsal test. The wet dress rehearsal will be the final major test for the Artemis I mission and will ensure the rocket, spacecraft, ground equipment and launch team are “go” for launch.

First Platforms are Retracted Ahead of Artemis I First Rollout to Launch Pad

Teams retracted the first two of 20 platforms surrounding the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft that allow work on the integrated system in High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first platforms to be retracted – which move like hydraulic kitchen drawers when moved – are those located near the launch abort system on Orion in preparation for rollout to Launch Complex 39B for the Artemis I wet dress rehearsal. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Artemis I Moon rocket is getting closer to rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the first time.

The first two of 20 platforms surrounding the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft that allow work on the integrated system inside the building were retracted for roll out to Launch Complex 39B. Teams retracted the platforms, which move like hydraulic kitchen drawers, near the launch abort system on the Orion spacecraft in anticipation of the roll.

Teams are continuing to install instrumentation on the SLS’s twin solid rocket boosters inside the VAB. Thousands of sensors and special instruments will monitor the rocket and spacecraft as they roll out for the first time on March 17 and make the four-mile journey to Launch Complex 39B, arriving on March 18. Engineers will capture as much data as possible on the performance of all the systems that are part of the rocket, spacecraft, ground systems used for rollout, and on the pad for propellant loading and other activities. Once all the rocket and spacecraft systems are inspected, the 322-foot-tall rocket will roll to the launch pad for the wet dress rehearsal test, which is scheduled to occur approximately two weeks after it arrives to 39B.

The last steps remaining before rollout include inspecting each piece of the rocket and spacecraft, including physically entering different components of SLS and, step-by-step, making sure SLS and Orion are ready for the trip to the launch pad. As inspections continue, the Kennedy ground systems team is working to remove equipment and scaffolding away from the rocket and will continue retracting the platforms until the entire rocket is revealed.

Artemis I Core Stage Engineering Testing Complete

This week, engineers and technicians successfully completed an engineering test series of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as part of the integrated testing before launch.

After replacing and testing one of four RS-25 engine controllers, the team conducted several tests to ensure the massive core stage is ready to roll to the launch pad for the wet dress rehearsal ahead of the Artemis I launch. Engineers and technicians tested communication between the flight computers and other core stage systems and slightly moved the engines to practice the gimbaling they will experience during flight.

All four engine controllers were powered up and performed as expected as part of the Artemis I Core Stage engineering tests. Following the power up, engineers successfully performed diagnostic tests on each controller.

Up next, the team will conduct a second countdown sequencing test to demonstrate the ground launch software and ground launch sequencer, which checks for health and status of the vehicle while at the pad. The simulated launch countdown tests the responses from SLS and the Orion spacecraft, ensuring the sequencer can run without any issues. After the countdown test and final closeouts are complete, SLS and Orion will head to the launch pad for the first time to complete the wet dress rehearsal test.

Final Certification Run for Orion Recovery

A test version of the Orion spacecraft is loaded into the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship.
A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft is loaded into the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship in preparation for the ninth in a series of tests to verify and validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean following the agency’s Artemis I mission. The first in an increasingly complex series of missions, Artemis I will test the Space Launch System rocket and Orion as an integrated system prior to crewed flights to the Moon. Photo credit: NASA/Pete Reutt

NASA and the U.S. Navy are preparing to head out to sea for the ninth in a series of tests to verify and validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean following deep space exploration missions.

NASA’s Landing and Recovery team, managed by Exploration Ground Systems, is heading from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Naval Base San Diego in California where they will have their final certification run for the Artemis I mission.

During the weeklong test, the joint team will conduct simulations that will exercise all the operational procedures, including nighttime, to support certification of team members for the Artemis I mission. The team will practice recovering a test version of an Orion capsule and bringing it into the well deck of a Navy ship, ensuring all personnel are properly trained before the real Orion splashes down.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to the Moon and destinations not yet explored by humans. It is slated to launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on its first deep space mission to pave the way for future flights with astronauts.

Lift Underway to Top Mega-Moon Rocket with Orion Spacecraft

Orion lifted atop SLS rocket in the VAB
Photo Credit: Chad Siwik

Final stacking operations for NASA’s mega-Moon rocket are underway inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as the Orion spacecraft is lifted onto the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the Artemis I mission. Engineers and technicians with Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and Jacobs attached the spacecraft to one of the five overhead cranes inside the building and began lifting it a little after midnight EDT.

Next, teams will slowly lower it onto the fully stacked SLS rocket and connect it to the Orion Stage Adapter. This will require the EGS team to align the spacecraft perfectly with the adapter before gently attaching the two together. This operation will take several hours to make sure Orion is securely in place.

NASA will provide an update once stacking for the Artemis I mission is complete.

Orion ‘Powerhouse’ for Artemis II Arrives at Kennedy

The European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.
The European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrives at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. Making the journey from the Airbus Facility in Bremen, Germany, aboard a Russian Antonov aircraft, the service module will be transferred to Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

Built by teams at ESA (European Space Agency) and aerospace corporation Airbus, the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Oct. 14, aboard the Russian Antonov aircraft. This service module will be used for Artemis II, the first Artemis mission flying crew aboard Orion. Service module assembly was completed at the Airbus facility in Bremen, Germany, and the module traveled across the world on its journey to Kennedy.

The service module is the powerhouse that will fuel and propel Orion in space. It stores the spacecraft’s propulsion, thermal control, electrical power, and critical life support systems such as water, oxygen, and nitrogen.

The service module will be transferred from the Launch and Landing Facility to Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility where teams from NASA and Lockheed Martin will integrate it with the crew module adapter and crew module, already housed in the facility.

With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface. Artemis II will be the first crewed flight test of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion, paving the way for human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

Orion Spacecraft Goes ‘Shields Up’ for Artemis I

The four ogive fairings for the Orion Artemis I mission are installed on the launch abort system assembly inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 20, 2021.
The four ogive fairings for the Orion Artemis I mission are installed on the launch abort system assembly inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 20, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are putting the final touches on the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission by connecting the ogive fairings for the launch abort system (LAS) assembly.  Pronounced oh-jive, the ogive fairings consist of four protective panels, and their installation will complete the LAS assembly.

Technicians and engineers from the center’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs recently finished attaching the launch abort tower to the top of the Orion crew module. They then began lifting and mating the lightweight fairings, which will shield the crew module from the severe vibrations and sounds it will experience during launch. One of the fairing panels has a hatch to allow access to the crew module before launch.

During Artemis missions, the 44-foot-tall LAS will detach from the spacecraft when it is no longer needed, shortly after launching on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, to lighten the journey to the Moon. Although the abort motors will not be active on the uncrewed Artemis I flight test, the system is intended to protect astronauts on future missions if a problem arises during launch or ascent by pulling the spacecraft away from a failing rocket.

Once LAS installation is complete, the spacecraft will leave the Launch Abort System Facility and continue on its path to the pad, making its way to the spaceport’s Vehicle Assembly Building to be integrated with the SLS rocket ahead of the launch.

Orion Points at the Moon with Launch Abort Tower

Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and contractor Jacobs integrated the launch abort system (LAS) with the Orion spacecraft inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 23, 2021.
Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) and contractor Jacobs integrated the launch abort system (LAS) with the Orion spacecraft inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 23, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Ahead of the Artemis I lunar-bound mission, teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center joined the launch abort tower to the Orion spacecraft on July 23. Working inside the spaceport’s Launch Abort System Facility, engineers and technicians with Exploration Ground Systems and primary contractor, Jacobs, lifted the system above the spacecraft and coupled it with the crew module.

The launch abort system is designed to protect astronauts if a problem arises during launch by pulling the spacecraft away from a failing rocket. Although there will be no crew Artemis I, the launch abort system will collect flight data during the ascent to space and then jettison from the spacecraft.

Next, teams will install four ogives – the protective panels that shield the upper portion of the spacecraft during its entry into orbit. Once final checkouts are complete, Orion will be integrated with the Space Launch System rocket.

Teams Add Launch Abort System to Ready Orion for Artemis I

NASA's Orion spacecraft
The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrives at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System facility on July 10, 2021, after being transported from the Florida spaceport’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility earlier in the day. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission recently completed fueling and servicing checks while inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule has now made it to its next stop on the path to the pad – the spaceport’s Launch Abort System Facility.

Crowning the spacecraft with its aerodynamic shape, the launch abort system is designed to pull crew away to safety from the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in the event of an emergency during launch. This capability was successfully tested during the Orion Pad Abort and Ascent Abort-2 tests and approved for use during crewed missions.

Teams with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs will work to add parts of the launch abort system onto the spacecraft. Technicians will install four panels that make up the fairing assembly and protect the spacecraft from heat, air, and acoustic environments during launch and ascent. A launch tower will top the fairing assembly to house the pyrotechnics and a jettison motor. The system will also be outfitted with instruments to record key flight data for later study.

With successful demonstration of the system during previous tests, the abort motor that pulls the spacecraft away from the rocket and attitude control motor that steers the spacecraft for a splashdown during an abort will not be functional for the uncrewed Artemis I mission. The jettison motor will be equipped to separate the system from Orion in flight once it is no longer needed, making Orion thousands of pounds lighter for the journey to the Moon.

Once the system’s integration is complete, teams will transport the spacecraft to the center’s Vehicle Assembly Building. There, it will join the already stacked flight hardware and be raised into position atop the SLS rocket, marking the final assembly milestone for the  Artemis rocket.

Launching in 2021, Artemis I will be a test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under Artemis, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and establish long-term lunar exploration.

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