TITUSVILLE/KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – NASA’s mobile launcher for the SLS Moon rocket rolled back out again to seaside Launch Complex 39B on Sept. 10 after having to retreat and return to the safety of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building in order to shelter in place inside the mammoth structure at the Kennedy Space Center as protection against potential hurricane force winds from then approaching Hurricane Dorian.
The ML was moved most of the journey along the 4 mile crawlerway path yesterday, Tuesday, Sept. 10, with no rocket atop. It completed the move up the incline ramp this morning, Wednesday, Sept. 11.
The ML spent 10 days inside the VAB after departing pad 39B a week and a half ago on August 30 when the then Cat 4 Hurricane Dorian was moving towards the US East coast and KSC was well inside the cone of uncertainty threat zone.
The nearly 400-foot-tall Mobile Launcher structure is rated to withstand 110 mph winds and originally moved to pad 39B in late June. The VAB is rated for 125 mph winds.
Enjoy our gallery of Space UpClose imagery from my observations today, Sept 11 and from the transport in June in views ringing KSC and the launch pad.
The ML had been completing pad verification testing and preparations for the 1st SLS launch slated for NET late 2020 on the Artemis 1 mission to the moon as part of NASA’s Project Artemis plans to send the first woman and next man to the lunar south pole – a region rich in water ice.
“The storm passed about 70 miles east of the spaceport during the overnight hours Tuesday, Sept. 3, and Wednesday, Sept. 4,” KSC PAO said in a statement Sept. 10.
“Now a week past the storm, NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) is moving the mobile launcher back to the launch pad. The 4-mile trek began at 9:30 a.m. today as crawler-transporter 2 began lifting the mobile launcher off its pedestals inside the VAB.The crawler-transporter and mobile launcher will complete most of the trip this afternoon and evening, then move up the ramp onto the pad’s hardstand tomorrow morning.”
“Once the mobile launcher is in place at the pad, teams will complete testing and checkout on the launcher in the coming weeks for the Artemis I mission.”
Most of the pad verification tests had already been completed before the threat from Dorian.
“Before the storm, 80 percent of the validation and verification testing with the pad and launcher were complete, and EGS (Exploration Ground Systems) does not expect any significant impacts to their upcoming test schedules due to the hurricane.”
After all the pad testing is complete this fall, the Mobile Launchers will roll back to the VAB for stacking of the1st integrated SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule in preparation for the debut launch of the Artemis 1 mission to the Moonslated for NET late 2020.
The Mobile Launchers next roll to the pad thereafter will be with that 1st integrated SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule forArtemis 1.
This rollout along the same KSC crawlerway used during the Apollo and Space Shuttle eras began a 2-day affair of 4.2-mile (6.8-kilometer).
A normal rollout from the VAB to the top of pad 39B will take about 8 hours or so as the massive structure moves at a whopping top speed of 0.85 MPH
A water spray vehicle regularly douses the crawlerway rocks to cool them from the intense heat generated by the 12 million pound stack.
Artemis 1 will be the first mission launching Orion on the SLS rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B. The mission will take Orion thousands of miles past the Moon on an approximately three-week test flight.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.