After years of preparation and two false starts, NASA’s Heavy Payload Space Launch System has finally lifted off and entered orbit. It’s a huge win for the space agency, even as it assigns tasks previously intended for SLS to SpaceX.
Some pre-launch jitters threatened to scrub the launch, but a “red crew” went out on the hot pad to tweak something, and a faulty Ethernet switch of all things later needed replacing as well. But it all came together about 40 minutes after the original T-0, and the rocket had a clean (and impressive-looking) climb with no hiccups to speak of. It reached orbit, and 13 minutes after launch, the various stages, gaps, and cutoffs were green across the board.
The SLS is a key part of NASA’s Artemis program, aimed at taking humanity back to the Moon “to stay,” as they often emphasize. That means bringing a lot of equipment in there, stuff that could take years to transport with smaller launch vehicles like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Rocket Lab Electron.
The SLS was built with this kind of heavy-duty mission in mind, but setbacks and delays have plagued the schedule, and there is now considerable speculation that heavy-duty commercial vehicles could soon offer more for their money. But it’s also clearly important for the US government to have a choice of its own from top to bottom.
Now that the huge “Mega Moon Rocket” has shown that it can reach space, NASA can at least plan to put the model to work, although that will mean building a new one every time; unlike some launch vehicles, this one is not reusable
You can watch the final countdown and takeoff here:
The mission ahead
The main goal of the Artemis I mission is to test the Orion spacecraft and its critical components, such as the heat shield upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and communications systems, before the capsule carries humans later this week. decade. The capsule will spend about 10 weeks going from orbit to the Moon and back before returning to Earth in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered by a US Navy ship.
NASA, of course, has a more detailed but easy to understand mission plan, and the following diagram shows it quite succinctly:
This was NASA’s third attempt to launch the Space Launch System rocket. The first, which took place in August, was canceled due to a hydrogen purge line problem with one of the rocket’s four core stage motors; the second attempt a few days later was deleted for the same reason. It seems that the third time was the charm after all.
This mission will have many more pivotal and historic moments, so stay tuned for more as the Orion capsule makes its way to the moon.