NASA’s New Moon rocket rollout to launch pad delayed by at least a month: The Tribune India – Archyde

The much-anticipated rollout of NASA’s big New Moon rocket to its Florida launch pad for final tests before a first flight has been delayed by at least a month, to no earlier than March, the US space agency said on Wednesday.

NASA, which was targeting launch for its unmanned Artemis-1 mission around the moon and back later this month late last year, declined to set a changed launch date, but the delay would rule out a flight before April.

Briefing reporters, NASA executives said there are no particular, major difficulties delaying their schedule, but rather a higher than usual volume of technical hurdles to overcome in preparing a large, complex rocket system for its first-ever launch .

“It’s really what I would call sort of a bucket list with a whole bunch of things that we absolutely need to get done and then we’re ready to roll out the vehicle,” said Tom Whitmeyer, NASA assistant administrator.

NASA officials said labor and supply disruptions related to Omicron’s recent spike in COVID-19 infections were also factors slowing work.

At stake is the combined fate of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion crew capsule it will send aloft for the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and eventually a long-term one Lunar colony as precursor to sending astronauts to Mars.

The US Apollo program sent six astronauts to the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972, the only manned spaceflights to date to have accomplished this feat.

In November, NASA announced it would achieve the first manned moon landing by Artemis, named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, as early as 2025.

But the space agency still has several spaceflight stepping stones to cross before getting there, beginning with a successful maiden flight for the SLS and Orion, which are now in the final stages of prelaunch preparations.

The rollout of the towering spacecraft, a major milestone marking the public’s first glimpse of the newly assembled, 36-story rocket and capsule vehicle as it moves, was recently scheduled for mid-February.

Under the updated timeline outlined Wednesday, the SLS-Orion will be transported on a giant tracked transporter from its assembly building to Launch Pad 39-B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in March — expected to be around mid-month.

Once there, it will take technicians about two weeks to prepare the launch vehicle for a “wet dress rehearsal,” which includes fully loading the rocket’s fuel tanks with propellant and running a simulated countdown.

After that, NASA will roll the SLS Orion stack back into the assembly building for a final round of verification before officially setting a new target launch date.

In a statement Wednesday, NASA said it was reviewing launch windows in April and May, but the schedule could move further depending on the outcome of the dress rehearsal, space agency officials said. Reuters

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