The US space agency has determined that its Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket is ready for the Artemis 1 flight test.
The agency will now roll SLS and Orion back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy next week to prepare the rocket and spacecraft for launch, NASA said in a statement late on Friday.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems — the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and supporting ground systems.
As the first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis 1 will pave the way for long-term exploration of the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars.
“We have completed the rehearsal phase, and everything we’ve learned will help improve our ability to lift off during the target launch window,” said Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems at NASA Headquarters.
“The team is now ready to take the next step and prepare for launch,” he added.
By reaching deep into the final phase of the countdown, known as the terminal count when many critical activities occur in rapid succession, teams exercised all the assets and capabilities of the entire system: the SLS rocket, the Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems including at Launch Complex 39B and other supporting locations.
“Our Artemis launch team has worked quickly to adapt to the dynamics of propellant loading operations. With each milestone and each test, we are another step closer to launch,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director at Kennedy.
Artemis 1 was earlier scheduled to launch in late May 2022. However, due to multiple delays in its wet dress rehearsal, the mega moon rocket has been pushed further.
The success of the final test could set the stage for its first launch in August, NASA had indicated earlier.
With the Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and establish long-term exploration in preparation for missions to Mars.