NASA begins transport of lunar mega-rocket to launch pad

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NASA begins transport of lunar mega-rocket to launch pad

NASA’s new giant rocket started this Thursday (17) its first transfer to a launch pad, where it will undergo a series of tests that, if successful, will allow it to carry out its mission to reach the moon in the summer. .

The SLS rocket left the Kennedy Space Center assembly building in Florida at 5:47 pm local time for an 11-hour journey, in which it will be transported by a large vehicle to the legendary Launch Complex 39B, located just over 6 km away.

astronomical cost

With the Orion capsule at its tip, the SLS is 98 m tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty but slightly less than the 110 m of the Saturn V rocket that sent man to the moon during the Apollo missions.

However, the SLS will have a thrust of 39.1 meganewtons, 15% more than the Saturn V, making it the most powerful rocket in the world. “It’s a symbol of our country,” said journalist Tom Whitmeyer, a senior NASA official.

A symbol, however, accompanied by an invoice of US$ 4.1 billion (R$ 20.8 billion) per launch for the first four Artemis missions to the Moon, said the inspector general of the American space agency, Paul Martin, before the Congress this month.

Upon arrival at the launch pad, engineers will have about two weeks to conduct a series of tests before a pre-launch dress rehearsal.

On April 3, the SLS team will load more than three million liters of cryogenic fuel into the rocket and repeat each countdown step until the last 10 seconds, without starting the engines.

The rocket will then be defueled for an aborted launch demonstration under safe conditions.

To the moon and beyond

NASA predicts a first launch window in May for Artemis 1, an unmanned lunar mission that will be the first to combine the SLS rocket with the Orion capsule.

The SLS will first place Orion into low Earth orbit, before performing a “translunar injection”. This maneuver is necessary to send Orion more than 450,000 kilometers from Earth and nearly 64,000 kilometers from the Moon, farther than any other manned spacecraft has ever been.

During its three-week mission, Orion will deploy ten shoebox-sized satellites called CubeSats that will collect information about deep space.

The capsule will travel to the dark side of the Moon using its thrusters provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), and then return to Earth, specifically to the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

To see a manned test flight, you will have to wait for Artemis 2, scheduled for 2024, when the capsule will circle the Moon, without landing on it. Artemis 3, scheduled for 2025, will take the first woman and the first black person to the lunar soil, at the satellite’s south pole.

NASA wants to test some technologies on the Moon that it wants to use during its future missions to Mars in the 2030s.

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