NASA's 'megarocket' set for crucial test

16 Janvier, 2021, 22:08 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • First Lunar Transit 2021

NASA's Boeing-built deep space exploration rocket, Space Launch System (SLS), is set to fire its behemoth core stage for the first time on Saturday, a crucial test for a years-delayed USA government project facing mounting pressure from emerging private sector technology. Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has completed assembly and testing of the Orion Artemis I spacecraft and has transferred possession to NASA's Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team today.

The mission called Artemis-1, which is carried out without a crew on board, will also launch the next generation of spacecraft, Orion, around the month. "This tremendous advancement opens the door to a new era of deep space exploration that will ultimately benefit us back here on Earth". Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for NASA and built the crew module, crew module adaptor, and launch abort system.

Because the Artemis I mission will carry no astronauts and the spacecraft has a high degree of redundancy, the space agency announced on December 17 that the faulty PDU would be left in place and the mission would rely on the backup systems.

Saturday's test takes place on the ground and will last about eight minutes, between 22: 00-00: 00 GMT, with the intention of simulating the ascent of the rocket into orbit, he writes.

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"Orion is a unique and impressive spacecraft, and the team did an outstanding job to get us to this day", said Mike Hawes, Orion vice president, and program manager for Lockheed Martin. At this point, it's just a matter of final prep work that includes loading propellants, integrating the launch abort system, and mounting the ship atop the SLS rocket.

The launch later this year will be the start of many of Artemis' missions to the moon.

When the flight is complete, the SLS will become the most powerful rocket ever to fly in space. The next mission, Artemis II, will be the first with a crew onboard and will go out to orbit the Moon and return.

As part of an Orion production and operations contract, NASA ordered three Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin for Artemis missions III-V with plans to order three additional Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions VI-VIII and options for up to 12 missions. This spacecraft is already under construction, with the main structural elements of the crew unit pressure vessel arriving at NASA's Michode assembly facility.

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