NASA finished stacking its Huntsville-managed Artemis Moon rocket and Orion capsule at the Kennedy Space Center this week giving America its first look at the giant rocket that will launch the nation’s return to the Moon.
Now the attention shifts fully to Kennedy where a 15-day launch window for the first uncrewed flight around the Moon and back is scheduled to open Feb. 12, 2022 and close Feb. 27, NASA said Friday.
The first launch will happen then, however, only if there are no problems with a “wet dress rehearsal” in January. That’s when NASA and its contractors roll the rocket to the launch pad, load it with fuel and test all of the countdown and communications systems that must work for a launch.
The first flight will be an uncrewed test flight of the Artemis 1 rocket and Orion capsule. Orion will detach from its booster and circle the Moon before returning to the Earth. A planned second mission will carry astronauts around the Moon before the third flight will land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface.
The completed stacking of Artemis 1 was a long-awaited milestone for a program that faced technical, financial and political challenges almost from its beginning. The mission accelerated when the Trump administration committed America to a lunar return in a 2019 speech by then Vice President Mike Pence at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Alabama has been deeply involved from the beginning. The booster development was managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center, full-scale versions of each core segment were stressed tested to failure at the center, and Marshall crews will be in the control room launch day.
Boeing in Huntsville is the prime contractor for the design, test, test and production of the SLS core stage, as well as development of the flight avionics suite.
NASA Artemis Program Manager John Honeycutt of Marshall told a national press briefing Friday that he and Huntsville are “ready to head to the Moon.”
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