Before NASA can send astronauts to the Moon, it needs a successful test flight of the Space Launch System, a giant rocket designed for the agency with lunar missions in mind. On Monday, we’ll see the first attempt to launch this massive rocket into orbit, this time with no astronauts on board the Orion capsule that will send it into space.
Here’s what you need to know about the mission, Artemis I.
What is the launch date and how can I watch it?
The launch is scheduled for 8:33 a.m. ET, but in the event of unfavorable weather or a technical glitch, the take-off can be pushed back two hours until 10:33 a.m.
NASA TVInternet coverage of the Artemis I launch begins at midnight early Monday as the process of filling the rocket’s giant fuel tanks begins. Full agency coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. Monday.
Coverage in Spanish It will start at 7:30 am
The forecast gives an 80 percent chance of favorable weather at the start of the launch window, but conditions are expected to deteriorate somewhat over the next two hours, up to a 60 percent chance of favorable weather.
Lightning strikes on the launch pad this weekend did not cause any problems.
“There are no issues, concerns, or limitations from lightning events at this point,” Jeff Spaulding, NASA’s senior director of tests for the mission, said during a news conference Sunday.
You can subscribe to the Times Space and Astronomy calendar to get a reminder About the launch and other events in your personal digital calendar.
If Artemis I descends from Earth, coverage will continue for about two hours after liftoff with what’s known as a lunar injection engine launch to propel the Orion spacecraft out of low Earth orbit on a trajectory toward the moon. If the launch is delayed, NASA has scheduled backup opportunities on September 2 or September 5.
What is Space Launch System and Orion?
For astronauts to get to the moon, they need a big rocket, and the Space Launch System is that rocket — the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V took NASA astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. The plane, awaiting launch on Monday, is 322 feet tall and will weigh 5.5 million pounds when filled with fuel.
The rocket, known as the SLS, has some visual similarities to the retired space shuttles. That’s by design: To simplify the development of its new lunar rocket, NASA reused much of the space shuttle technology in the 1970s.
Monday’s SLS payload is Orion, a capsule designed for multi-week flights outside low Earth orbit. This flight will be unmanned but can carry four astronauts. If this flight is successful, a quartet of astronauts will travel on the next mission, Artemis II.
What happens during the flight?
After takeoff, several events will occur in quick succession.
Just over two minutes after leaving Earth, the two slender side boosters attached to the space launch system’s giant core stage will exhaust their solid rocket fuel and fall away, falling into the Atlantic Ocean.
After eight minutes of flight, the four engines of the primary stage will be shut down. The stage will then fall and will be the second stage of the rocket and Orion capsule that will carry future astronauts alone in space.
About an hour and a half after launch, the second stage fires up again for about 18 minutes, in what’s called a cross-lunar injection. That is, the second phase would push Orion on a path to the Moon. After this engine burns out, Orion will separate from the second stage.
On the sixth day, Orion will begin its orbit around the Moon.
On day 24, Orion will leave the distant orbit in retrograde and begin its journey back to Earth. If Artemis I launches on Monday, it will go live on October 10, ending a 42-day mission.
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