NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket rolled out to pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center on June 6, preparing for another countdown rehearsal later this month to try loading cryogenic propellants into the massive launcher.
The rollout began at 12:15 a.m. EDT (0415 GMT) with the departure of the Space Launch System, NASA’s official name for the moon rocket, from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy. The rocket and its mobile launch platform rode NASA’s diesel-powered crawler-transporter for the 4.2-mile (6.8-kilometer) journey to pad 39B.
The crawler reached a top speed of about 0.8 mph (1.3 kilometers per hour) and completed the rollout at 10:47 a.m. EDT (1447 GMT) with the lowering of the mobile launch platform onto pedestals at the launch pad.
NASA teams have completed connections between the mobile launch platform and ground facilities at pad 39B, and planned to start loading hydrazine into the Space Launch System’s solid rocket boosters this weekend. The toxic fuel is used to power the hydraulic steering system on each booster, which will be turned on and tested as part of the upcoming countdown rehearsal.
NASA is running the 322-foot-tall (98-meter) rocket through another countdown test after rehearsals in April ended before the launcher could be fully loaded with super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants. The cryogenic propellant loading is a key goal of the countdown test, which will culminate in a cutoff at about T-10 seconds, just before four main engines would ignite during a real launch attempt.
Ground system problems prevented the completion of the countdown test, called a wet dress rehearsal, in April. Read our previous story for details.
NASA plans to start the two-day countdown Saturday, June 18. The final day of the countdown test — next Monday, June 20 — will see the launch team begin loading more than 750,000 gallons of liquid propellants into the two-stage rocket.
After a successful completion of the test, ground teams plan to roll the rocket back to the assembly building for final inspections and checkouts, then return it to pad 39B for launch later this summer. If the wet dress rehearsal goes according to plan this month, NASA could be ready to launch the Artemis 1 test flight around the moon in August.
The Artemis 1 mission is a precursor to the next SLS flight, which will send an Orion spacecraft to loop behind the moon and return to Earth. That mission, called Artemis 2, is scheduled for launch no earlier than 2024. NASA eventually aims to land humans on the moon’s surface in the Artemis program later this decade.
More photos of the SLS rollout June 6 are posted below.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.