For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Just in the nick of time from approaching thunder and rainstorms NASA’s 32- story tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was transported back from Launch Complex-39B and arrived inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Saturday afternoon, July 2, after agency officials determined that the 4th Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) Tanking Test conducted on the repaired rocket was sufficiently successful to declare completion of the practice countdown and cryogenic fueling test campaign objectives despite a new hydrogen leak detected in the Artemis 1 moon rocket.
Saturday’s move back of the human rated SLS Mega moon rocket from pad 39B to the VAB thereby paves the way forward another step to the long-awaited launch of the unpiloted Artemis 1 mission from KSC by no earlier than NET late Summer.
The team can now complete final repairs, complete testing and accomplish checkouts to ready the rocket for launch now expected no earlier than late August or early September.
Artemis 1 will be uncrewed and is the first test flight in NASA’s Project Artemis program to return humans to the Moon for the first time in five decades.
The first astronaut crew will fly on the Artemis 2 mission to the moon and back about 2 years later in late 2024.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrived at the doors to the VAB around 1:30 p.m. ET, rolled inside at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) and they were fully secured inside High Bay 3 and protected from the weather at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT).
Drenching rainstorms and lightning strikes inundated KSC and the Space Coast shortly thereafter – as the Space UpClose team of Ken Kremer and Jean Wright witnessed first hand, being on site at the Launch Complex-39 Press Site to observe and photograph the rollback
The 4.2 mile (6.8 km) trek of NASA’s 322-foot-tall (98-meter) SLS Artemis 1 moon rocket atop the crawler-transporter on launch pad 39B began at approximately 4:12 a.m. ET (0812 GMT)moving down the incline, along the crawler-way rocky path and concluded 10 hours later inside the VAB.
The Apollo era crawler-transporter-2 (CT-2) moves at a top speed of about 0.8 mph (1.3 kilometers per hour).
Over the next several days, the team would extend a slew of work platforms to allow engineers and technicians access to the SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule at multiple different levels to ready the rocket for flight by making necessary repairs and to complete testing and install the flight termination system.
“In the coming weeks, teams will replace a seal on the quick disconnect of the tail service mast umbilical and perform additional checkouts and activities before returning to the pad for launch,” NASA said.
Inside the VAB technicians will carry out 6 to 8 weeks of repair and refurbishment work and ready the duo for their 3rd rollout to Launch Complex 39B.
The work ahead includes fixing the LH2 leak, battery activations and installing the flight termination system.
“Technicians continue work associated with battery activations, and plan to turn on the core stage batteries this weekend, before they are installed on the rocket. Next up, teams will start the flight termination systems operations, which include removing the core stage and booster safe and arm devices for calibration and removing and replacing the command receiver decoders with the flight units. The safe and arm devices are a manual mechanism that put the flight termination system in either a “safe” or “arm” configuration while the command receiver decoders receive and decode the command on the rocket if the system is activated,” said NASA.
After SLS rolls back out for the 3rd time to pad 39B the team needs 10 to 14 days for pad preparations
However the FTS is only verified for 20 days starting from the VAB rollout day. It is limited due to battery lifetime
After 20 days the entire stack has to rollback to the VAB for battery replacement – thus requiring another month of delays for th trip back and forth
They can do 3 launch attempts in 7 days out at the pad.
The team is currently targeting launch of the unpiloted Artemis 1 mission to the Moon and back for the late August/early September timeframe if all goes well.
The Artemis 1 WDR test concluded at 7:37 p.m. EDT June 20 at T-29 seconds in the countdown ending a 2-day test campaign by fully loading some 750,000 gallons of super cooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into the SLS rocket core and upper stages after they developed a workaround to the hydrogen leak discovered in a 4-inch quick-disconnect fitting at the bottom of the core stage.
“During the wet dress rehearsal activities, we have incrementally added to our knowledge about how the rocket and the ground systems work together, and our teams have become proficient in launch procedures across multiple sites. We have completed the rehearsal phase, and everything we’ve learned will help improve our ability to lift off during the target launch window,” said Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems at NASA Headquarters.
“The team is now ready to take the next step and prepare for launch.”
For the first time NASA was able to fully fuel both stages of the agency’s Mega Moon Rocket with supercold cryogenic propellants and enter the terminal countdown to within 29 seconds of T-Zero on Monday June 20, despite a hydrogen leak during the fourth attempt to complete the critical countdown and tanking test known as the Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) for the now repaired Space Launch System (SLS) Artemis 1 Moon rocket standing vertical at launch pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“Today’s test marked the first time the team fully loaded all the Space Launch System rocket’s propellant tanks and proceeded into the terminal launch countdown, when many critical activities occur in rapid succession,” NASA said June 20.
Thus the SLS launch team at KSC completed nearly all the primary and secondary objectives required for a successful WDR that now paves the way for NASA officials to decide to push ahead with preparations for the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission around the Moon later this summer, the team said at post test briefings June 21 and Jun 24.
They were also able to demonstrate replenish of propellants of both stages
“During Monday’s rehearsal, teams were able to validate the timelines and procedures for launch, including loading cryogenic – or supercold – propellant into the rocket’s tanks, performing the launch countdown through the handover to the automated launch sequencer, and draining the tanks.”
The rehearsal focused on two primary objectives and several secondary objectives to help ensure the team will be ready to launch on the Artemis I flight test.
Here are the Artemis 1 launch windows for late August/early September
The Space UpClose team of Ken Kremer and Jean Wright attended and witnessed the SLS/Orion 1st and 2nd rollouts and rollbacks from KSC Press Site
Enjoy our photos of SLS/Orion rolling out and back between the VAB and pad 39B.
Read my earlier detailed stories about the rollout, rollback and repairs illustrated with our photos
NASA will set a launch date for Artemis 1 only after fully analyzing the successfully completed WDR
Watch Ken’s commentary about Project Artemis, Capstone, NASA SLS WDR demo test, NASA SpaceX Cargo Dragon, JWST, SpaceX missions including NASA Crew-3 and Crew 4, AX-1, Nilesat 301, Transporter-5, Starlink, Boeing Starliner, and NASA TROPICS 1.
Jul 14: Watch Ken’s live interview on NewsNation interview about the CRS-25 launch & dangers and threats from falling rockets and on orbit space debris collisions
Jul 14: WFTV ABC Orlando News featured my commentary about the CRS-25 mission
Jul 12: Watch Ken’s live interview on NewsNation interview about the release of the stunning first science images taken by NASA Webb and the spectacular discoveries about star birth, star death, galactic evolution, exoplanet atmospheres and much more and what it means.
Watch Ken’s BBC World TV interview about Webb achieving final orbit and the goals ahead on Jan 24, 2022.
Dr. Ken Kremer of Space UpClose live interview on BBC World News TV on Jan. 24, 2022 ET (Jan. 25 GMT) about NASA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) just hours after achieving orbit at its final destination, why at L2, what’s ahead with spacecraft checkouts, what are the science goals and when are first pictures expected
Jul 6/7: Fox 35 Orlando featured my commentary about NASA Capstone cubesat mission – communications just reestablished after 2 day loss. Capstone is a pathfinder mission for NASA’s Gateway mini lunar space station. Now preparing for 1st trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) and heading to lunar orbit
Jul 5/6: WKMG CBS 6 Orlando News featured my commentary about todays loss of contact with NASA’s CAPSTONE lunar cubesat mission. CAPSTONE had been healthy until a 2nd comm pass. Team is attempting to reestablish contact. Goal: test the stability of the unique orbit planned for NASA Gateway mini human space station:
Jul 5/6: WFTV ABC Orlando News featured my commentary about today’s loss of contact with NASA Capstone cubesat mission which is a pathfinder test for the Gateway mini human lunar space station
Jun 21/22: WFTV ABC Orlando News featured my commentary about NASA’s 4th SLS WDR fueling attempt Jun 20, the results and whats ahead after NASA conducts detailed analysis of the 1st tanking test to completely load both stages with LOX & LH2 and run the terminal count to T-29 sec despite a hydrogen leak – achieving many but not all objectives
Jun 17: Fox 35 Orlando featured my commentary about the selection of 2 NASA astronauts to fly on the 1st crewed mission of Boeing Starliner capsule on CFT test flight late 2022 – and what it means for human spaceflight to have a 2nd US commercial crew provider following the successful Boeing Starliner OFT-2 mission for NASA
Jun 9/10: WFTV ABC Orlando features my commentary about the upcoming NASA TROPICS 1 & 2 cubesat science launch on an Astra Rocket 3.3 from pad 46 for NASA which will study the formation and evolution of Tropical Cyclones and Hurricanes. Two more launches will follow for 6 TROPICS cubesats altogether over next few months
Jun 8: WFTV ABC Orlando features my commentary about the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of NileSat301 telecom sat for Egypt
June 6/7: WFTV ABC Orlando features my commentary about completing 2nd rollout to pad 39B for 2nd round WDR tanking test, what’s involved in and why its critical to the future of Project Artemis:
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about SpaceX missions Artemis, SLS, Orion and NASA missions, SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragons, SpaceX Axiom-1, JWST, IXPE, DART, Lucy Asteroid mission, GOES, SpaceX Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon, Blue Origin and Space Tourism, and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2 & 3 & 4, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
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.
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