The rocket and spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis I mission has fully left Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for the first time on the way to Launch Complex 39B for a wet dress rehearsal test.
The team is in a planned pause outside the building to retract the Crew Access Arm (CAA). The arm interfaces with the Orion spacecraft stacked atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to provide access to the Orion crew module during operations in the VAB and at the launch pad. On crewed Artemis missions beginning with Artemis II, the access arm also will provide entry and exit for astronauts and payloads that will fly aboard. Several days before the rollout began, the arm was moved closer to the rocket to fit through the VAB door. Engineers are extending it to lock it in its travel position.
Once the CAA retraction is complete, the team will continue the four-mile trek to Launch Complex 39B.
The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission are rolling to Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the very first time. At about 5:45 p.m. ET, with the integrated SLS and Orion system atop it, the crawler-transporter began the approximately 4-mile, journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad. Once outside the VAB high-bay doors, the Moon rocket will make a planned pause allowing the team to reposition the Crew Access Arm before continuing to the launch pad. The crawler-transporter will move slowly during the trek to the pad with a top cruising speed of .82 mph. The journey is expected to take between six and 12 hours.
After they arrive at the pad, engineers will prepare the integrated rocket and Orion spacecraft for a critical wet dress rehearsal test that includes loading all the propellants
NASA has updated the schedule to move the combined Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for testing to no earlier than March 2022.
NASA has added additional time to complete closeout activities inside the VAB prior to rolling the integrated rocket and spacecraft out for the first time. While the teams are not working any major issues, engineers continue work associated with final closeout tasks and flight termination system testing ahead of the wet dress rehearsal.
Teams are taking operations a step at a time to ensure the integrated system is ready to safely launch the Artemis I mission. NASA is reviewing launch opportunities in April and May.
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.
On Jan. 11, engineers and technicians with Exploration Ground Systems retracted and extended the Orion spacecraft crew access arm as part of ongoing work leading up to the Artemis I wet dress rehearsal targeted for late February.
The arm rotates from its retracted position and interfaces with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at the Orion crew hatch location to provide entry and exit for the Orion crew module during operations in the Vehicle Assembly Building and at the launch pad. On crewed Artemis missions, the access arm also provides entry and exit for astronauts. The arm retracts from the Orion spacecraft before launch.
The team continues to complete final testing and closeouts of SLS and Orion. Check back for updates on the agency Artemis blog.
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.
Engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs successfully completed the Umbilical Release and Retract Test on Sept. 19 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in preparation for the Artemis I mission.
The umbilicals will provide power, communications, coolant, and fuel to the rocket and the Orion spacecraft while at the launch pad until they disconnect and retract at ignition and liftoff.
“Previous testing at the Launch Equipment Test Facility and in the VAB refined our designs and processes and validated the subsystems individually, and for Artemis I, we wanted to prove our new systems would work together to support launch,” said Jerry Daun, Jacobs Arms and Umbilical Systems Operations Manager.
“This test is important because the next time these ground umbilical systems are used will be the day of the Artemis I launch,” said Scott Cieslak, umbilical operations and testing technical lead.
Teams will continue conducting tests inside the VAB before transporting the Orion spacecraft to the assembly building and stacking it atop the SLS, completing assembly of the rocket for the Artemis I mission.
“It was a great team effort to build, and now test, these critical systems,” said Peter Chitko, arms and umbilicals integration manager. “This test marked an important milestone because each umbilical must release from its connection point at T-0 to ensure the rocket and spacecraft can lift off safely.”
Artemis I will be the first integrated test of the SLS and Orion spacecraft. In later Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone on the way to Mars.
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.
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.
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.
The Orion spacecraft receives another iconic NASA “worm” logo ahead of the Artemis I mission. On April 28 teams with the agency’s Exploration Ground Systems and lead contractor Jacobs completed painting the retro insignia on the outboard wall of the spacecraft’s crew module adapter (CMA) – the piece of hardware connecting the crew module to the European-built service module – inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility (MPPF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While a decal of the historic logo was added to the underside of the CMA in September 2020, having it painted on the siding of the spacecraft will make it visible as the spacecraft is poised atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, awaiting liftoff from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B.
The worm logo was officially introduced in 1975, retired in 1992, and then made a comeback in 2020, just as NASA entered a new era of human spaceflight. In addition to its appearance on the CMA, the bright red logo also was painted on the SLS twin solid rocket boosters in August 2020.
The Orion spacecraft and Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) – the upper stage of the rocket responsible for sending Orion on its journey around the Moon – are currently being fueled and serviced in the MPPF. Once fueling is complete, Orion will move to the Launch Abort System Facility for integration of its launch abort system, while the ICPS will move to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be stacked on the mobile launcher.
Artemis I will be the first integrated test of SLS and Orion and will pave the way for landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. The mission will be a stepping stone for deep space exploration, leading the agency’s efforts under the Artemis program for a sustainable presence on the Moon and preparing for human missions to Mars.
Click here for a video of the logo being added to the CMA.