WASHINGTON – A senior NASA official says the agency will soon set a target launch date for the first Space Launch System mission, but that it is “more than likely” to arrive in early 2022.
Speaking at a Maryland Space Business Roundtable webinar on Sept. 30, NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana said no firm date had been set for the launch of the Artemis 1 mission, but suggested it was little. likely to take place before the end of this year.
“I’ll get you a firm date for that, hopefully after next week. We will set an initial date after the team comes and tells us where we are, ”he said. “We will be flying this Artemis 1 mission hopefully, more than likely, early next year.”
NASA officials have been hopeful that Artemis 1 could still launch before the end of the year, although they were increasingly hedging their bets. “Artemis 1 will be at the end of this year or the first part of next year,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a call with reporters on Sept. 21.
Cabana said workers had just completed the night before “modal tests” of the SLS, where the vehicle is subjected to vibrations to determine its natural frequencies. The next milestone is the installation of the Orion spacecraft, which takes the place of a mass simulator currently on top of the rocket. He said the Orion spacecraft will move to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 13 to integrate into the SLS.
Once in place, the entire stack will be rolled out to Launch Complex 39B for a wet dress rehearsal, where the center stage is filled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in a practice countdown that stops just before all four engines are fired. RS-25 from the stage. . After that, the rocket will return to the VAB for any final work and reviews before returning to the platform for launch.
When asked later in the presentation to give his best guess for both the Artemis 1 launch date and future Artemis missions, he declined, citing the upcoming briefing. “Next week, Jim Free and Kathy [Lueders] They come to inform me and the rest of the team here about all the work they were doing at Kennedy this week, ”he said. “Hopefully, we will have some realistic dates on where we are going to conduct these missions as we move forward. So wait. “
NASA appointed Free as its new associate administrator for exploration systems development on September 21, part of a restructuring that divided the former Human Operations and Exploration Mission Directorate (HEOMD) into two organizations. Lueders, who was previously in charge of HEOMD, is now Associate Administrator for Space Operations, responsible for the International Space Station and related programs.
Cabana backed the reorganization because it offered a “more focused look” at exploration programs in particular. “He’s just a great engineer and an excellent program manager,” he said of Free, who returned to the agency from the private sector to lead the new exploration direction. “His focus will be to deliver the systems we need to run Artemis and a sustainable return to the moon, and then continue to get us to Mars.”