The new giant NASA rocket began this Thursday (17) its first transfer to the launch pad, where it will undergo a series of tests that, if successful, will allow it to carry out its mission to reach the moon in the summer.
The SLS rocket left the Kennedy Space Center assembly building in Florida at 5:47 p.m. local time on an 11-hour flight, where it will be transported by a large vehicle to the legendary Launch Complex 39B, located 6 kilometers away.
With an Orion capsule at its tip, the SLS is 98 meters tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty but just under 110 meters for the Saturn 5 rocket that sent humans to the moon during the Apollo missions.
However, the SLS will have a thrust of 39.1 megatons, which is 15% more than the Saturn V, making it the most powerful rocket in the world. “It’s a symbol of our country,” said journalist Tom Whitmaier, a senior NASA official.
It’s a symbol, however, accompanied by a bill of US$4.1 billion (20.8 billion Brazilian reals) for each launch of Artemis’ first four missions to the Moon, US Space Agency Inspector General Paul Martin told Congress this month. .
Upon reaching the launch pad, the engineers will have about two weeks to conduct a series of tests before the pre-launch rehearsal.
On April 3, the SLS team will load more than three million liters of cooled fuel into the rocket and repeat each step for a countdown to the last 10 seconds, without the engines running.
The missile will then be refueled for a failed launch demonstration under safe conditions.
To the moon and beyond
NASA expects a first window launch in May for Artemis 1, an unmanned lunar mission that will be the first to combine an SLS rocket and Orion capsule.
The SLS will first put Orion into low Earth orbit, before performing the “trans-lunar injection”. This maneuver is necessary to send Orion more than 450,000 km from Earth and nearly 64,000 km from the Moon, farther than any other manned spacecraft has been.
During its three-week mission, Orion will deploy ten shoebox-sized satellites called CubeSats that will gather information about deep space.
The capsule will travel to the dark side of the moon using thrusters provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), and then return to Earth, specifically to the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
To see a manned test flight, you will have to wait for Artemis 2, scheduled for 2024, when the capsule will orbit the moon, without landing on it. Artemis 3, scheduled for 2025, will take the first woman and first black person to lunar soil, at the satellite’s south pole.
NASA wants to test some of the technologies it wants to use on the Moon during its future missions to Mars in the 2030s.
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