In a jaw-dropping spectacle, 322 feet tallThe most powerful project ever built for NASA finally blasted off Wednesday with a blast of white-hot fire and an Earth-shaking roar, launching a mission to the moon to usher in a new era in American space flight. Boosted the unmanned Orion capsule.
After multiple delays caused by repeated hydrogen fuel leaks, ground system glitches, two storms and back-to-back launch slips, the Space Launch System rocket’s four main engines finally roared to life at 1:47 a.m. EST , followed a few seconds later by the ignition of the two extended strap-on solid-fuel boosters.
At that moment, four explosive bolts at the base of each booster detonated to free SLS from the launch stand and the 5.7-million-pound rocket leapt from Pad 39B, rocketing skyward with 8.8 million pounds of thrust, at 70 mph. At hour speed – straight up – in about 7 seconds.
The launch took place about 45 minutes later than planned after engineers noticed intermittent leaks around a valve used to refill hydrogen in the core stage and trouble with data relays from the Space Force Eastern Range tracking radar. Both issues were resolved, but mission managers had to order a delay while the team made up for lost time.
Thrilling thousands of spectators, including spaceport employees, area residents and tourists who stayed for the historic launching, the SLS consumed its propellants, lost weight and accelerated along a slightly northeastward trajectory into day and night. Changed.
The opening moments of the ascent took place in eerie silence as it took several seconds for the wall of sound to separate the launch pad from the nearest observers to race for 4.2 miles, arriving with a defined roar that shook the ground like an earthquake from a rocket. An awe-inspiring reminder of immense power.
SLS was expected to travel faster than the speed of sound one minute after liftoff. A minute after that, the two strap-on boosters, which provide the lion’s share of liftoff thrust, burned out and fell away, leaving the four engines powering the core stage to continue the ascent into space.
Eight minutes after liftoff, the SLS second stage and the attached Orion capsule separated from the core stage in an initially elliptical orbit inclined 34 degrees to the equator. Meanwhile, the core stage was left to fall back into the atmosphere, breaking up over an uninhabited stretch of the Indian Ocean.
Two critical engine “burns” are needed to keep the spacecraft on track: one to raise the low point of the initial orbit, and the other to lift Orion out of Earth’s gravitational clutch and forward toward the Moon. . The 18-minute-long trans-lunar injection, or TLI, burn was expected to occur approximately 90 minutes after launch.
About two hours after launch, the Orion capsule was expected to separate from the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, or ICPS, on Monday for a 60-mile-high flight trip to the moon, using lunar gravity to propel it into distant orbit. Get it farther from Earth than any human-rated spacecraft.
The Artemis 1 mission is the first in a series of SLS/Orion flights. Future missions aim to establish a sustained presence on and around the Moon with a lunar space station called Gateway and PeriodicWhere ice deposits can be reached in cold, permanently shadowed pits.
Astronauts of the future may be able to “mine” that ice if it exists and is accessible, converting it into air, water and even rocket fuel to reduce the cost of deep space exploration. Could
More generally, Artemis astronauts will conduct extended exploration and research to learn more about the Moon’s origin and evolution and test the hardware and procedures that will be needed before eventually sending astronauts to Mars.
The Artemis 1 mission aims to put the Orion spacecraft through its paces while testing its solar power, propulsion, navigation and life support systems before returning to Earth on December 11 and heading back into the atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour. To come who will be subject to it. Protective heat shield for a hellish 5,000 degrees.
Testing and confirming the heat shield can protect future astronauts returning from deep space is the No. 1 priority of the Artemis 1 mission.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, NASA plans to launch a second SLS rocket in late 2024 to boost the four astronauts on a looping free-return trajectory around the Moon. Then it aims to land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface near the south pole in the Artemis 3 mission.
That flight, targeted for launch in the 2025-26 timeframe, depends on NASA preparing new spacesuits for moonwalkers and a lander being built by SpaceX based on the company’s reusable Starship rocket design.
SpaceX is working on the lander under a $2.9 billion contract with NASA, but the company has provided little in the way of details or updates and it is not yet known whether NASA and the California rocket maker will actually be taking Artemis 3 to the lunar surface. When will be ready for landing mission. ,
But if the Artemis 1 test flight is successful, NASA may be examining its need for a super-heavy-lift rocket to get the initial mission off the ground and onto the Moon.