NASA announced the date of the first launch of the SLS

NASA chose three days in late August and early September for the first attempt to launch a superheavy SLS rocket. As part of the Artemis I mission, it will send an unmanned Orion spacecraft to the Moon, which will spend about a week in a retrograde selenocentric orbit, after which it will return to Earth.

Characteristics of the SLS rocket

The SLS is NASA’s largest rocket since the Apollo program. Its height is 111 meters. The carrier consists of two solid-fuel accelerators and two stages. The boosters are a modified version of the blocks used to launch the shuttles. They differ in the presence of an additional segment.

The SLS rocket is on the launch pad. Source: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The first stage of the rocket is equipped with four RS-25 engines, which were also once used on shuttles. The second stage is the DCSS cryogenic unit (Delta Cryogenic Second Stage), used on Delta family rockets. 

In the current configuration, SLS is capable of carrying 95 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit (LEO) and up to 27 tons of cargo to the Moon. In the future, NASA plans to equip the SLS with more powerful accelerators and the second stage, which will bring its payload capacity to 130 tons on LEO and up to 46 tons when flying to the Moon.

First launch date

In June, NASA specialists fully refueled the SLS for the first time and then conducted a dress rehearsal of the pre-launch countdown. Although due to the hydrogen leak, the engineers were unable to complete the test to the very end, they managed to fulfill about 90% of all the goals set. Later, NASA management stated that they were satisfied with the results of the test and did not plan to repeat it. This paved the way for the launch of SLS.

The proposed orbit and main maneuvers of the Orion spacecraft as part of the Artemis I mission. Source: NASA

At a briefing held on July 20, NASA representatives called the dates chosen for the first attempt to launch the SLS. These are August 29, September 2 and September 5. If the rocket fails to launch on the specified days, the next launch windows for the flight to the Moon will be open from September 20 to October 4 and from October 17 to October 31.

In addition to Orion, SLS will also launch a dozen cubesats into space. Among them are satellites designed for solar wind research, astrobiological research, as well as the study of the Moon and asteroids.

According to

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