2nd test for NASA's mega-rocket

2nd try for NASA megafuse


After a first failed attempt at the start of the week, NASA will try again on Saturday to launch its mega-rocket to the Moon, for a test mission which is to launch its new flagship program, Artemis, fifty years after the last Apollo flight. 

Tens of thousands of spectators hope that their wait will be rewarded with an impressive spectacle: the orange and white rocket SLS, which will be its maiden flight from launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is the most power in the world.

Takeoff is scheduled for 2:17 p.m. local time (6:17 p.m. GMT), and remains possible during the following two hours if necessary.

The weather conditions are favorable at 60% at the start of this shooting window, then gradually improve to 80%.

“Our team is ready, they are better at every attempt,” said Jeremy Parsons, ground equipment manager at the space center, on Friday. If the weather and equipment conditions are met, “it is clear that we will take off”.

In the event of another impediment on Saturday, take-off could possibly be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday. It will then be necessary to wait until September 19 at the earliest, due to the positions of the Earth and the Moon.

The purpose of this unmanned mission, named Artemis 1, is to verify that the Orion capsule, at the top of the rocket, is safe to transport astronauts in the future.

Thanks to this new spacecraft, the American space agency intends to reconnect with distant human exploration, the Moon being 1,000 times further away than the International Space Station.

Above all, NASA intends this time to establish a lasting human presence there, in order to to make it a springboard for a trip to Mars.

In the middle of the long weekend in the United States, up to 400,000 people are expected to admire the take-off, especially from the surrounding beaches.

A host of astronauts also made the trip, including the French Thomas Pesquet.

Shortly before 6 a.m. local time, Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson gave the go-ahead to begin filling the rocket's tanks with cryogenic fuel — a total of about three million liters of hydrogen and ultra-cold liquid oxygen.

On Monday, a leak had been observed at this stage, before an engine cooling problem caused the launch to be canceled. NASA has since worked to resolve these issues.

If successful, two minutes after takeoff, the boosters will fall back into the Atlantic. After eight minutes, the main stage will detach in turn. Then, after about 1.5 hours, a final push from the upper stage will put the capsule on its way to the Moon, which it will take several days to reach.

The trip is expected to take about six weeks in total. Orion will venture up to 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, farther than any other habitable ship to date.

The main purpose of Artemis 1 is to test the capsule's heat shield, the largest ever built. On its return to the Earth's atmosphere, it will have to withstand a speed of 40,000 km/h and a temperature half as hot as that of the surface of the Sun.

In total, the spacecraft must travel some 2 .1 million miles to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Complete success of the mission would be a relief for NASA, which originally expected a 2017 first launch for SLS , and will have invested more than $90 billion in its new lunar program by the end of 2025, according to a public audit.

The name Artemis was chosen after a female figure, the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo — echoing the Apollo program, which sent only white men to the lunar surface, between 1969 and 1972.

This time, NASA wants to allow the first person of color and the first woman to walk on the Moon.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will carry astronauts to the Moon in 2024. Moon, without landing there. This honor will be reserved for the crew of Artemis 3, in 2025 at the earliest. NASA then wants to launch about one mission per year.

The aim will be to build a space station in lunar orbit, called Gateway, and a base on the surface of the Moon.

< p>There, NASA wants to test the technologies needed to send the first humans to Mars: new suits, vehicle to move around, possible use of lunar water…

According to the boss of NASA, Bill Nelson, a round trip to the red planet aboard Orion, which would last several years, could be attempted towards the end of the 2030s.