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’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.
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.
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.
Since replacing an engine controller on RS-25 engine number four that is on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage, NASA, and lead engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, have performed a series of tests to ensure the engines and controllers are ready to support the Artemis I mission. All four engine controllers performed as expected during power up, as part of the Artemis I Core Stage engineering tests.
Aerojet Rocketdyne and its manufacturer of the engine flight controller, conducted numerous tests on the faulty engine four controller and determined the cause to be a faulty memory chip. The device is used only during the controller start-up sequence and has no impact on controller operations beyond that point. There is no indication of faulty memory chips on the other three engines, and therefore no related constraints to the wet dress rehearsal or launch.
Kennedy teams are completing remaining SLS pre-flight diagnostic tests and hardware closeouts, including testing the flight termination system on the SLS and installing instrumentation on the twin solid rocket boosters, in advance of rolling the rocket and spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B for the first time next month for a final test before launch. This final test, known as the wet dress rehearsal, will run the launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks and conduct a full launch countdown.
During the test at the launch pad, engineers will be on duty in the Launch Control Center and in other stations where they will work during the Artemis I launch. They will capture as much data as possible on the performance of all the systems that are part of SLS and the Orion spacecraft as well as the Kennedy ground systems. NASA will set a target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test.
Work continues inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the Artemis I wet dress rehearsal test, currently targeted for next month. Teams have been installing the flight termination system on the rocket and working on the first of a two-part test of the system. For safety, all rockets are required to have a flight termination system that the Space Launch Delta 45 can use to terminate the flight if necessary. Once the rocket and spacecraft systems are verified during wet dress rehearsal testing, the 322-foot-tall rocket will roll back into the VAB for final inspections and checkouts, including the second part of the flight termination system test, ahead of returning to the pad for launch.
In addition to work on the flight termination system, the team is installing instrumentation on the twin solid rocket boosters and core stage, as well as instrumentation needed for the wet dress rehearsal rollout. Artemis I is a flight test, and engineers will capture as much data as possible on the performance of all the systems that are part of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft as well as the Kennedy ground systems that support the vehicle during rollout, wet dress rehearsal, and launch. Not only will this be the first integrated flight for SLS and Orion, but it will be the first use of many new ground systems. Thousands of sensors and special instruments will monitor the rocket and spacecraft as they make the four-mile journey to Launch Complex 39B next month. The team is also working to inspect and install thermal blankets on the core stage engine section.
Up next, the team plans to power up the Orion spacecraft as part of testing the flight termination system and then close the spacecraft’s hatch after powering it down.
Engineers and technicians successfully completed a second countdown sequencing test on Jan. 24 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is one of the final tests for the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft ahead the Artemis I mission, and brings the team one step closer to rolling to the launch pad in mid-February for the wet dress rehearsal test.
The test demonstrated the ground launch software and ground launch sequencer, which checks the health and status of the rocket sitting on the pad. The simulated launch countdown tested the responses from the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, ensuring the sequencer operates correctly. On launch day, the ground launch sequencer hands off to the rocket and spacecraft, and an automated launch sequencer takes over control of the rocket from ground controllers around 30 seconds before launch.
Up next the team will work to complete the final program specific engineering tests for the Artemis I mission. With the countdown sequencing test complete, Exploration Ground Systems teams will continue doing final checks and closeouts of the Moon rocket in preparation for the wet dress rehearsal test next month. For wet dress rehearsal, engineers will fully load SLS with propellant, and the team on the ground will run through all the pre-launch operations to prepare for the Artemis I launch.
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 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.