NASA will undertake an extensive dress rehearsal this weekend with its new megarocket
NASA is holding an extensive dress rehearsal with its enormous new rocket, the Space Launch System, over the next three days, rehearsing all of the critical tasks the agency will need to do before the vehicle launches for the first time. It’s a significant milestone in the rocket’s development and one of the final key tests the vehicle must pass before being permitted to launch sometime this summer.
The Space Launch System, or SLS, is the agency’s next flagship rocket, capable of transporting humans and cargo into deep space. It is intended to be a key component of NASA’s Artemis mission, which aims to transport the first woman and first person of color to the Moon by the mid-2020s. SLS, which is capable of lifting about 60,000 pounds of cargo to orbits beyond the Moon, is being developed to launch NASA’s new crew capsule, Orion, which will transport future astronauts to the lunar surface.
When SLS starts, all of this can happen. Its first flight, called Artemis I, is also a test run. The rocket will send Orion into space without any people inside. It will take the vehicle on a four- to six-week trip around the Moon to show off its abilities. However, NASA wants to do a “wet dress rehearsal,” which is when they go through all of the steps that lead up to launch. When NASA flight controllers get ready to launch, they plan to go through the whole process again, including filling the rocket’s tanks with ultracold liquid propellant, just like they will on launch day. This is called “wet.” During a press conference, NASA’s Artemis launch director, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, said: “It’s very similar to how we do the countdown to launch.” “There are a few small differences, but they are, in fact, small.” Of course, the main difference is that the countdown won’t reach zero, so there won’t be a launch.