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NASA rolls SLS to the launch pad for the first time

The Moon is seen rising behind NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard. Credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Edinburgh / Cape Canaveral, 21 March 2022. – NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft atop has rolled out for the first time for a final uncrewed test before the Artemis 1 Moon mission.

It took 10 hours and 28 minutes for SLS and Orion to reach the launch pad four miles away from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The 98-meter tall, 1.6-million-kilogram spacecraft will undergo several tests and a two-day wet dress rehearsal. The latter will run the launch team through operations including fuelling the rocket with over 265,000 l of cryogenic propellant. Every phase of the countdown sequence will be practiced as well as draining the tanks in the end.

After the rehearsal, NASA will review data to set a target launch date for the upcoming Artemis I mission. The spacecraft will be rolled back to the VAB to charge system batteries, and run final checkouts. Orion and SLS will be transported to the launch pad again a week before the actual launch.

NASA is aiming to establish a long-term presence on the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars. Artemis 1 will send an uncrewed mission around the Moon to lay the foundations of deep space exploration. This will be followed by Artemis 2, a crewed mission around the Moon, and then Artemis 3, the first Moon landing since 1972.

The Artemis program has generated US $14 billion and supported 70,000 jobs across the U.S. so far.

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