The SLS countdown is ticking towards Monday launch of the Artemis moon rocket

The SLS countdown is ticking towards Monday launch of the Artemis moon rocket

The SLS countdown is ticking towards Monday launch of the Artemis moon rocket

Despite five lightning-fast “events” on Saturday at pad 39B, the engineers were cleared to continue preparations on Sunday for the expected launch NASA’s massive lunar rocket Space Launch System on Monday on a critical flight to send an unmanned Orion capsule to a trip around the moon.

Engineers spent Sunday preparing the rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA, for refueling just after midnight, when 750,000 gallons of super-cold liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket fuel will be pumped aboard the ship. SLS 322 feet tall.

Hopefully, the four shuttle motors at the base of the SLS center stage, along with two strap-on solid rocket boosters, will fire at 8:33 am EDT, propelling the 5.75 million-pound rocket away from the launch complex. 39B at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Space Launch System rocket atop Pad 39B on Sunday morning, awaiting takeoff at 8:33 am EDT on Monday on the Artemis 1 mission to the moon.  / Credit: CBS News

The Space Launch System rocket atop Pad 39B on Sunday morning, awaiting takeoff at 8:33 am EDT on Monday on the Artemis 1 mission to the moon. / Credit: CBS News

Meteorologists predicted an 80% chance of acceptable weather when the two-hour launch window opens, decreasing to about 60% later in the morning.

While the main goal of the 42-day mission is to test the Orion capsule’s heat shield at the end of the flight, the SLS booster must send the spacecraft on its way, pushing it into Earth orbit and then sending it to a five-day trajectory. towards the moon.

Preparing the Space Launch System rocket for its maiden flight was a struggle, with a series of ground system problems and propellant leaks triggering multiple delays. But engineers say the rocket complex is finally ready to go.

“Our team right now is super excited and we’re prepared for anything (that’s thrown at us),” said NASA test director Jeff Spaulding. “The four (training countdown) we have done in the past, I think, have really prepared us for the moment we are now.

“We are thrilled. The vehicle will be ready. It is ready right now, it looks fantastic to proceed with this inaugural launch of the Artemis program.”

One question mark remains in the final hours of the countdown: the status of a 4-inch liquid hydrogen quick release fitting that was leaked during the last refueling test on June 20.

The engineers repaired the fitting, but the work was done at room temperature and they won’t know for sure it is leak-free until supercooled liquid hydrogen starts flowing through it starting at 3:30 am. another test at 5:43 am will subject the plumbing to higher pressures as a final check.

An unrelated problem surfaced Saturday just hours after the countdown began when storms swept through Cape Canaveral and lightning struck two of the three 600-foot-tall towers protecting Pad 39B.

Spaulding said Sunday five electrical “events” from multiple attacks were detected by the launch pad sensors, requiring a check of the rocket’s electrical systems to make sure nothing was really affected.

“We evaluated them yesterday and last night, and everything to date … looks very good,” Spaulding said. “We have a threshold that we look at to see what the magnitude of these strikes is. And we haven’t met those criteria for having to retest intensive or invasive tests.”

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