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NASA launches SLS for the first time, the $11 billion super-heavy launch vehicle in development since 2011 for expeditions to the Moon and Mars [Обновлено: запуск отменили]

NASA launches SLS for the first time, the $11 billion super-heavy launch vehicle in development since 2011 for expeditions to the Moon and Mars [Обновлено: запуск отменили]

On August 29, in the afternoon (if the weather does not interfere and other unforeseen technical problems arise), a historic event for the American and the entire world astronautics will take place – NASA and Boeing for the first time launch the Space Launch System (SLS) super-heavy launch vehicle, which has been developed since 2011 for manned launches beyond Earth orbit

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Updated [15:33]: NASA canceled the launch after the fuel tanks were fully loaded due to problems in one of the four main RS-25 engines – several attempts by engineers to fix a cooling problem related to engine # 3 were unsuccessful. The next backup dates for a re-launch attempt are September 2 and 5. However, it is not known whether NASA will have time to identify problems and fix them in such a short time.

In preparation for the launch, several more problems emerged – in particular, a hydrogen leak in the engines and a crack in the material of the thermal protection system protecting the main stage of the rocket were reported, but they were quickly eliminated.

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It is SLS that in the future should return the Americans to the moon and help humanity get to Mars. Today’s Artemis 1 test mission is to launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft into orbit and then travel around the moon and return to Earth. Naturally, the launch will be broadcast live, so everyone will be able to follow the developments in real time at the Kennedy Space Center launch complex LC-39B on Merritt Island in Florida, where Apollo 10 launched 53 years ago.

The two-hour launch window will open at 15:33 Kyiv time – NASA broadcasts the event live on the official website, YouTube channel and NASA application. There are also unofficial broadcasts from space enthusiasts – the same American NASASpaceflight or Ukrainian Alpha Centauri. You can also follow the updates on social networks: in the official accounts of NASA SLS, ULA and Boeing on Twitter -1, 2 and 3.

NASA official broadcast

Unofficial NASASpaceflight broadcast

Unofficial broadcast of Alpha Centauri

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o_4FabS3AA

SLS is a super-heavy two-stage launch vehicle developed by the NASA space agency since 2011, replacing the unrealized Ares V, which was canceled along with the Constellation program. It is designed to take the payload and manned expeditions beyond the Earth orbit.

She has two stages and two side accelerators. The basic version is capable of delivering up to 90 tons of cargo into orbit, and in the future they plan to double the carrying capacity: first to 105 tons, and then to 130. The first stage uses four RS-25 engines designed for the Shuttle, and the side solid-fuel boosters are based on the boosters of these spaceplanes. You can read more about the technical characteristics and design – in our separate text.

It took the SLS a very long time to get to the launch pad. The design of the rocket was approved back in 2014, and the first test launch was originally planned for 2016, but the timing was repeatedly changed due to poor management, lack of funding and numerous technical difficulties. Despite borrowing from the Space Shuttle program, the SLS project turned out to be much more expensive than planned – the development of the rocket cost the American taxpayers a staggering $ 11 billion, and the cost of a single launch of Orion on the SLS is, for a minute, an astronomical $ 4.1 billion (for comparison, SpaceX with its Starship wants to meet the $2 million.) Of these, $2.2 billion is the rocket itself, another $0.57 is ground costs, and the rest is the cost of American and European components of the Orion spacecraft.

NASA rolled out a nearly 100-meter rocket to Launch Pad 39B last week, taking nearly 10 hours to travel the 6.4 km distance from the manufacturing facility to the launch pad. And now she is preparing for her first flight.

NASA launches SLS for the first time, the $11 billion super-heavy launch vehicle in development since 2011 for expeditions to the Moon and Mars [Обновлено: запуск отменили]Scheme of launching the Orion spacecraft into space using the SLS rocket.

Artemis 1 is the first test flight of the Orion spacecraft (the old name of the Orion EM-1 mission) using the SLS rocket. This is a demonstration flight with an exit to a lunar orbit and a return to Earth to test the performance of a ship passing without a crew.

NASA launches SLS for the first time, the $11 billion super-heavy launch vehicle in development since 2011 for expeditions to the Moon and Mars [Обновлено: запуск отменили]Scheme of the flight of the Orion spacecraft to the Moon and return to Earth

Orion is scheduled to spend three weeks in space, including three days in retrograde lunar orbit. The duration of the mission is 42 days. It will end with a splashdown of the ship off the coast of Florida. If everything goes according to plan, Orion will return to Earth on October 10th.

Animation of the first uncrewed flight of the Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft

In addition to the Orion ship, the launch vehicle under the fairing has a lot of auxiliary (secondary) cargo – a total of 10 miniature satellites (cubesats). Among them are Lunar IceCube to search for water ice and other resources on the Moon, Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper (LunarH-Map) to create a map of the hydrogen content at the south pole of the Moon, Lockheed Martin LunIR to create a terrain surface map (this will help choose landing sites for future manned missions) and the MOTENASHI lander of the Japanese agency JAXA weighing only 700 grams, which will study the radiation of the lunar surface and its mechanics.

The directive, which marked the return to the program for the exploration of the moon, was signed on December 11, 2017 by Donald Trump, who at that time was the President of the United States. Since then, NASA has launched many initiatives aimed at achieving key goals and implementing an ambitious lunar program called Artemis. We have closely followed its development from the very beginning and tried to write about all the important news – all notes on this topic can be easily found on the website by the appropriate tag.

SLS is an important part of the ambitious American lunar program “Artemis” / Artemis with the restoration of manned missions, the colonization of the satellite and the extraction of useful resources. Today, nine countries take part in Artemis, including Ukraine. The next launch will take place no earlier than May 2024, and this time Orion will have a crew on board that will also circle the Moon and return to Earth. The first (since the Apollo program) lunar landing is most likely now scheduled for 2025 as part of the Artemis 3 mission NASA launches SLS for the first time, the $11 billion super-heavy launch vehicle in development since 2011 for expeditions to the Moon and Mars [Обновлено: запуск отменили]NASA launches SLS for the first time, the $11 billion super-heavy launch vehicle in development since 2011 for expeditions to the Moon and Mars [Обновлено: запуск отменили]Artemis 3 is the upcoming first moon landing since Apollo and the first expedition to feature a female astronaut. Four astronauts are to go to the Moon on the Orion spacecraft, two of which will transfer to the Starship and land in the region of the south pole of the Moon to carry out a scientific program designed for more than six Earth days. After completing the tasks, they will return to Orion and go to Earth. However, there is a high probability that it will be transferred again, since there are quite a few technological difficulties and a lack of funding.

If today the launch fails due to the weather or for some technical reason (right now the rocket is being refueled and at the beginning there were certain difficulties with it, similar to those during the dress rehearsal, but they seem to have been eliminated and refueling occurs in this way, in order to have time to launch a rocket today), several more dates are reserved – September 2 and 5.

Interestingly, in parallel with the first launch of SLS in Florida, SpaceX is preparing the first orbital launch of another promising super-heavy rocket, Starship, at its spaceport in Texas. And there’s still a good chance that Starship will make its first orbital flight before the end of this year. But that’s a completely different story.

What do you think, will the SLS fly today or not?

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