NASA is rolling out its mega lunar rocket – you need to know that

WASHINGTON: NASA’s massive new rocket began its first trip to a launch pad Thursday ahead of a series of tests that will clear it for launch to the moon this summer.
It departed Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building at approximately 5:47 p.m. Eastern Time (2147 GMT) and began an 11-hour journey on a tracked transporter to Sacred Launch Complex 39B, four miles (6.5 kilometers) away.
Around 10,000 people gathered to watch the event.
With the Orion crew capsule at the top, the Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1 is 322 feet (98 meters) tall – taller than the Statue of Liberty but slightly smaller than the 363-foot Saturn V rockets that carry the Apollo powered missions to the moon.
Even so, it will generate 8.8 million pounds of maximum thrust (39.1 meganewtons), 15 percent more than the Saturn V, meaning it is expected to be the world’s most powerful rocket by the time it enters service.
“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the most powerful rocket in the world!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told a crowd. “We imagine, we build, we never stop pushing the limits of what is possible.”
A symbol of US space ambitions, it also comes with a hefty price tag: $4.1 billion per launch for the first four Artemis missions, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin told Congress this month.
After reaching the launch pad, there are still around two weeks of checks to do before the so-called “wet dress rehearsal”.
The SLS team will load more than 700,000 gallons (3.2 million liters) of cryogenic propellant into the rocket and practice each phase of the launch countdown, stopping ten seconds before launch.
NASA is targeting May as the earliest window for Artemis-1, an unmanned lunar mission that will be the first integrated flight for the SLS and Orion.
SLS will first place Orion in low Earth orbit and then perform what is known as a translunar injection with its upper stage.
This maneuver is necessary to send Orion 280,000 miles beyond Earth and 40,000 miles beyond the Moon – further than any spaceship capable of carrying humans has ever attempted.
On its three-week mission, Orion will use ten shoebox-sized satellites known as CubeSats to gather information about the space environment.
The “passengers” include three mannequins collecting radiation data and a plush Snoopy toy, long a NASA mascot.
It will fly around the far side of the moon, powered by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) engine, and eventually make its way back to Earth, where its heat shield against the atmosphere will be tested.
Splashdown takes place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
Artemis-2 will be the first manned test to fly around the moon but not land, while Artemis-3, planned for 2025, will see the first woman and first colored person land on the moon’s south pole.
NASA wants to establish a permanent presence on the Moon and use it as a proving ground for technologies required for a Mars mission sometime in the 2030s using a Block 2 development of the SLS.
NASA calls SLS a “Super Heavy Lift Exploration Class Vehicle”. The only currently operational superheavy rocket is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which is smaller.
Elon Musk’s company is also developing its own space rocket, the fully reusable spacecraft he said should be ready for an orbital test this year.
Starship would be both larger and more powerful than SLS: 394 feet tall with 17 million pounds of thrust. It could also be significantly cheaper.
The tycoon has suggested the cost per launch could be as little as $10 million within years.
Direct comparisons are complicated by the fact that while SLS is designed to fly directly to its destinations, SpaceX plans to launch a spacecraft into orbit and then refuel it with another spacecraft so it can continue its journey, to increase range and payload.
NASA has also contracted a version of Starship as a lunar descent vehicle for Artemis.
Other superheavy rockets under development include Blue Origin’s New Glenn, China’s Long March 9, and Russia’s Yenisei.

NASA is rolling out its mega lunar rocket – you need to know that

Source link NASA is rolling out its mega lunar rocket – you need to know that

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