NASA Lays Out Three Placeholder Launch Dates for Artemis I Moon Mission

NASA Lays Out Three Placeholder Launch Dates for Artemis I Moon Mission

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The Artemis I moon mission is a step closer to taking flight. The Space Launch System, or SLS — also known as the “mega moon rocket” — and Orion spacecraft now have three dates penciled in on the calendar. During a media teleconference Wednesday,  identified Aug. 29, Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as possible launch dates. 

Meeting those dates depends on final preparations moving forward as expected, and on the cooperation of the weather at the launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch windows and durations vary depending on the date. For example, an Aug. 29 launch would take off during a two-hour window opening at 5:33 a.m. PT and kick off a 42-day mission that would bring the spacecraft back down to Earth on Oct. 10.

NASA will firm up its chosen target date about a week ahead of launch.

Artemis I is all about proving SLS and Orion are ready and able to carry humans to our lunar neighbor (and back) for the first time since the Apollo era. While it’s nice to have some relatively firm dates to look forward to, space missions, particularly ones involving new hardware, are prone to delay. The launch of Artemis I has been nudged back multiple times already.

NASA took two stabs at a wet dress rehearsal, a test that mimics everything that happens up to the moment of launch. Those tests helped the team , including a hydrogen leak that required repair after the second rehearsal attempt.

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Senior vehicle operations manager Cliff Lanham said some payloads have already been loaded into Orion, including a manikin , one of three manikins that will make the flight instead of real humans. 

The space agency is hoping for a smooth launch, Frauen flight and return so it can move forward with the Artemis II mission, a trip to the moon with actual astronauts on board. All of this is in service of the bigger goal of landing people back on the moon’s surface and eventually establishing a sustainable human presence at our lunar neighbor.

It’s been a long road full of technical hurdles, delays and cost overruns for Artemis I, but the big moment is finally in sight. If all goes well, the rocket will likely roll out to the launchpad on Aug. 18. Said Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin, “Launch day is going to be here before we know it.”