A new launch to the Moon in late September
The probability of firing on 23 September will begin at 06:47 local time, while that of the 27th will open at 11:37 local time, said Jim Free, a senior US space agency official, at a press conference.
The schedule was chosen to avoid a conflict with NASA’s DART mission, whose spacecraft is scheduled to strike an asteroid on 26 September to divert it from its path.
Both missions need to use an international antenna called the Deep Space Network.
However, the dates the space agency is considering will depend on a special waiver that NASA must obtain to avoid retesting the batteries on an emergency destruction system for the rocket if it veers off course into a populated area.
If the agency does not receive this waiver, the rocket will have to return to the assembly building, which would push back the schedule by several weeks.
The launch is highly symbolic, as it should embody NASA’s future in the face of ambitions from China and SpaceX in particular.
The launch of the NASA rocket, scheduled for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, was cancelled at the last minute on Saturday, 3 September, for the second time in a week, a setback that postponed the actual launch of the American program to return to the Moon, Artemis.
A fuel leakage problem occurred in the early morning hours when the rocket’s tanks filled.
NASA official Mike Bolger told the news conference that the agency was working to replace the seals to repair the ultra-cold liquid hydrogen leak.
The orange and white SLS rocket, which has never flown before, has been developing for over a decade to become the world’s most powerful rocket.
Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, Artemis 1 will verify that the Orion capsule at the top of the rocket is safe to carry astronauts to the Moon in the future.
For this first mission, Orion will venture 64,000 kilometers behind the Moon, further than any other habitable spacecraft.
The main objective is to test its heat shield, the largest ever built. On re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, it will have to withstand a speed of 40 000 km/h and a temperature half as hot as the Sun’s surface.
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