Launch of Artemis I, live
The day has come. This afternoon, starting at 12:33 GMT (14:33 Spanish peninsular time), all eyes will be on the historic Launch Complex 39B of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA), from where NASA will launch Artemis Ithe first step for humanity return to the moon. The unmanned mission, made up of the Orion spacecraft and the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, aims to demonstrate the proper functioning of its systems on a round trip through space that will last 42 days. The US space agency will make a live broadcast of the launch that will begin at 12:30 p.m. (in English, one hour later in Spanish) and that the reader can follow from this page.
The officials of the POT They said on Sunday that all systems appeared ready for liftoff, and weather forecasts have given an 80% chance of favorable conditions at the top of the two-hour launch window.
“To date, everything looks good from a vehicle perspective,” he said. Jeff Spaulding, NASA’s lead test manager for the historic mission. “We are excited, the vehicle is ready, it looks great.”
Although lightning rods at the launch site were hit during a storm on Saturday, NASA has assured that no damage has been done to the spacecraft or launch facilities.
The huge SLS launcher, 98 meters high, is configured to propel an unmanned capsule called Orion around the Moon and back on a six-week test flight designed to put both vehicles through their paces before flying astronauts on a subsequent mission planned for 2024.
If both missions are successful, NASA aims to return astronauts to the Moon, including the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface, as early as 2025, though many experts believe that timeline is likely to be pushed back a few years. The last humans to walk on our natural satellite were the two-man Apollo 17 descent team in 1972, following in the footsteps of 10 other astronauts during five previous missions beginning with Apollo 11 in 1969.
The Artemis program seeks to eventually establish a long-term lunar base as a springboard for even more ambitious astronaut trips to Mars, a goal NASA officials have said likely won’t be realized until the late 2030s.
SLS has been in development for over a decade, with years of delays and cost overruns. But the Artemis program has also generated tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade under prime contractors Boeing Co for SLS and Lockheed Martin Corp for Orion.
liquid hydrogen leak
NASA officials this morning before SLS’s maiden flight found a liquid hydrogen leak at the docking interface with the rocket’s core stage. After manually cooling the liquid hydrogen as part of troubleshooting efforts, they are now in fast fill operations.
“This is a test flight, remember that,” said the NASA chief, bill nelsonin an interview with Reuters that was interrupted by an unexpected phone call from the US vice president, kamala harriswho will be in Florida to see the rocket launch in person.
It has not been the only problem that the launch is facing. While loading of liquid oxygen into the interim cryogenic propulsion stage continues and the core stage tanks continue to be refilled with propellant, engineers are troubleshooting a problem that conditions one of the RS-25 engines (Engine 3) at the bottom of the middle stage.
Launch controllers condition the engines by increasing pressure in the core stage tanks to bleed some of the cryogenic propellant into the engines to bring them into the proper temperature range to start them. Engine 3 is not getting properly conditioned through the bleeding process and engineers are resolving this issue.
Crews are also evaluating what appears to be a crack in the thermal protection system material on one of the center stage flanges. Flanges are connection joints that work like the seam of a shirt, they are fixed at the top and bottom of the intertank so that the two tanks can be joined to it.
For now, everything is going ahead and the rocket will be fired into its launch window. Within two minutes of ignition its solid propellant will have been consumed, and six minutes later its liquid fuel will also have been depleted, at which point the rocket’s core stage will be jettisoned.
Within 18 minutes of launch, the Orion spacecraft and the upper stage of the SLS rocket will make a full revolution around Earth. Orion will take 12 minutes to deploy its solar panels. Afterward, the spacecraft will head for the Moon.