One of the most momentous tests in NASA history will launch in the early hours (ET) of Wednesday, Nov. 16.
It is the first long-awaited demonstration of the agency’s new 322-meter-tall moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The launch, originally scheduled for late August, has now been delayed several times due to things such as an engine problem, leaking fuel and severe storms. However, these flight problems are are not surprising: This is a test of a gigantic, complex rocket that will one day be responsible for transporting astronauts to space. It takes time to get it right.
If successful, the pivotal mission, dubbed Artemis I, will pave the way for NASA astronauts to return to the moon as early as 2025. Ultimately, the space agency plans to use this hulking rocket to establish a permanent US presence on and around the moon. Moon.
After a 50-year absence from the moon, SLS – while hugely expensive, delayed and entangled in American politics – will allow NASA to restart its human exploration of deep space.
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How NASA’s new mega-rocket stacks up against its legendary predecessor
Rain or high winds can often cause launch delays or scrub. As of November 14, NASA said that the the weather looks 90 percent favorable for the launch of the SLS rocket on November 16. Those are good odds.
Watching the launch is easy
When to watch: The space agency plans to launch the SLS rocket as soon as possible 1:04 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 16. NASA has a two-hour window to launch the rocket into space. The live launch of the agency Coverage starts on Tuesday November 15th ET at 10:30 PM ETalthough they will start refueling the rocket earlier in the day.
A launch at such early hours may seem odd, but there’s a good reason for it. There are specific time periods for a launch that will allow the Orion spacecraft (which will eventually carry astronauts) to reach its lunar target, receive enough sunlight for power, and splash safely in the ocean during the day.
What will the Artemis l mission do?
The unmanned mission will prove that the SLS rocket can lift the Orion spacecraft into space and help propel it to the moon. If successful, the rocket will become the most powerful launch vehicle in the world.
NASA aerospace engineers will examine Orion’s performance as it travels through space, orbits the moon several times, then returns to Earth. The mission lasts for weeks.
Orion will plummet through Earth’s atmosphere and parachute down into the Pacific Ocean. This should all go smoothly and safely: Astronauts will be on the next mission, Artemis II, which will launch as early as late 2024.
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NASA is testing the Orion capsule landing in a large pool at the agency’s Langley Research Center.
Credit: NASA Langley Research Center