The Artemis I megarocket could launch to the moon on August 29, September 2, or September 5, according to Jim Free, assistant administrator for NASA’s Office of Exploration Systems Development Mission, during a press conference on Wednesday.
The unmanned Artemis I will go on a mission that will go beyond the moon and return to Earth. This mission will kick-start NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon and land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface by 2025.
The launch window will open at 8:33 AM ET on August 29 and will remain open for two hours. If Artemis I launches then, the mission will last 42 days and return to Earth on October 10th.
The September 2 launch window opens at 12:48 pm ET and lasts two hours. will return on October 11, and the September 5 window opens at 5:12 pm ET and lasts 90 minutes, resulting in in return October 17th.
The Artemis team arrived on these dates after successfully completing an important final test called the wet dress rehearsal for the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft on June 20th. Florida.
The mission team returned the rocket back to the vehicle assembly building on July 2 to assess problems encountered during testing, including a hydrogen leak.
While fixing the leak, engineers discovered a loose mount on the inner wall of the rocket’s main engine section. “The job of tightening the fist-sized collet is complete,” said Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager for NASA’s Ground Systems Research Program.
Additional testing and system activations continue while the rocket is in the building before it returns to the launch pad.
Launch dates are subject to change and “are not agency commitments,” Free said. “We will commit ourselves to the agency after a flight readiness check just over a week before launch.” Weather and other factors can affect the launch of a rocket.
“We’ll be careful,” Free said.
The Artemis I mission is a test flight with a number of challenges, including testing how Orion’s heat shield can withstand the high speed and heat the spacecraft will encounter when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere after returning from the Moon.
It will travel at about 24,500 miles per hour (39,429 kilometers per hour) and experience half the temperature of the sun. Outside the heat shield, according to Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission leader. This is much hotter and faster than when a spacecraft returns from low Earth orbit.
Other goals include demonstrating the operation and flight modes of the rocket and spacecraft ahead of manned missions, searching for Orion after it splashdown in the ocean, and completing the mission as planned, Sarafin said.
According to him, the team is ready to adapt to any challenge, and as a result, some goals may change.
The Artemis team shared news on the 53rd anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.
“Today’s anniversary is a good reminder of what a privilege it is to be part of such a mission,” Sarafin said. “This is not just an Artemis I mission, it’s a bigger picture of returning to the Moon and getting ready to go to Mars.”