While NASA officials stressed during a media conference call today (November 3) that the agency’s highly anticipated Artemis 1 lunar mission will be difficult, they said they were confident in the next attempted launch on November 14.
The Artemis 1 mission stack, consisting of the huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, is scheduled to deploy again to Launch Pad 39B from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) on Friday, November 4. . The SLS stack visited the pad three times, once in March and June for pre-launch refueling tests, and again in mid-August for two failed launch attempts. The rocket was then brought back to the VAB on September 27 for overcome hurricane ianwhere it has since been undergoing repairs and pre-flight checks.
Despite these setbacks, NASA officials emphasized at today’s press conference that they support the mission’s new schedule, which targets a launch attempt at 12:07 a.m. EST (0507 GMT) on November 14. “If we weren’t confident, we wouldn’t be starting the countdown when we did. If we weren’t confident, we wouldn’t be starting the countdown when we did. We’re confident moving forward,” said Jim Free, managing partner of Exploration Systems Development Mission Management at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C.
Related: Watch NASA launch the Artemis 1 lunar rocket to the launch pad early Friday
Free added that the Artemis 1 mission has been a challenge from the start. “I want to reflect on the fact that this is a difficult mission,” Free told reporters. “We’ve had challenges getting all of our systems to work together. And that’s why we’re doing a flight test. It’s about looking for the things that can’t be modeled. And we’re learning by taking more risks on that mission before we put the crew there. And those challenges, you know, come with that complex of a vehicle and where we fly and how we get there.
“The good part in all of this is that our team continues to grow and learn about the vehicle,” he added.
While SLS had been in the VAB for five weeks, NASA engineers replaced the SLS Flight Termination System hardware, recharged Orion’s batteries, and replaced payload batteries, including those on some of the 10 cubesats of the mission.
“Since returning to the VAB for Hurricane Ian, the team has worked hard,” said Cliff Lanham, senior director of vehicle operations for the Exploration Ground Systems program at KSC. “The work in the VAB went well, and we were able to protect the rocket from the hurricane, and we were able to participate in our inspections and carry out repairs.”
Lanham added that, with the upstream work now nearly complete, NASA teams at KSC have begun preparing for Friday’s deployment to Launch Pad 39. “We’ve started retracting our platforms. We’re actually retracting our final platform now. the large bay under the mobile launcher.”
Space.com asked NASA officials if previous launch attempts and the widespread media scrutiny that followed had affected the morale of the many personnel working on the Artemis 1 mission.
“This is a group of professional people whose first allegiance is to hardware and doing it right. And when we give you all the talks like this, I appreciate the questions and the ability to address things like you just said, the criticism that’s thrown at us,” Free told Space.com. “We are spending taxpayers’ money. We should be open to criticism and answer questions, but that will never force us to push too hard to throw too fast or make the wrong decision.”
Lanham added that the team’s enthusiasm has never waned despite previous mission setbacks. “We’re back in terms of being ready to go and excited here.”
Artemis 1 will send an unmanned Orion on a long journey to lunar orbit and back. This is NASA’s first mission Artemis program of lunar exploration, which aims to deposit people near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026 and to establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon by the end of the decade.
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