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NASA’s Megarocket Rolls Back to Launch Pad, With Blastoff Just 10 Days Away

Hamartia Antidote

Nov 17, 2013
United States
United States


NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket shortly after arriving at the Kennedy launch pad earlier today.Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The towering Space Launch System is back at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, following a nine-hour trek from the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building. The agency is targeting November 14 for the rocket’s first launch, an event that will kick off the Artemis 1 mission and NASA’s return to the Moon.

Could this be it? Might this finally be the last time NASA has to cart the 321-foot-tall (98-meter) SLS rocket to the launch pad? I’m obsessively toggling between optimism and pessimism, as there’s good reason for both.

The launch attempt on November 14 will be NASA’s third try at getting the rocket off the ground, so it’s had plenty of practice at this point. But as we saw during those attempts and also during the wet dress rehearsals, SLS is a bit finicky, particularly when it comes to the loading of its liquid hydrogen propellant.

For this mission, an uncrewed Orion spacecraft will travel to the Moon and return to Earth three-and-a-half weeks later, without performing a lunar landing. The purpose of the Artemis 1 mission is to test the powerful new rocket and the Orion capsule, setting the stage for the crewed Artemis 2 mission in 2024.
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