NASA performs last major test before launching mega-rocket to the moon

WASHINGTON – A NASAthe American aerospace agency, began this Friday, the 1st, a crucial two-day test of its giant rocket Space Launch System (SLS). Known as the general fuel circulation test, this is the last major test before the mission. Artemis 1 this summer: an unmanned lunar flight.

The checks carried out this weekend, which include a simulated countdown, come as the agency prepares a new mission to take humans to the Moon, but this one will likely not take place until 2026.

“This is the last project check before launch (unmanned)“, said Tom Whitmeyer, a senior NASA official. The data collected in the test will be used to set a date for the Artemis 1 mission. NASA had said that May could be the first launch window, but now it is more likely that be later.

The 98-meter-tall rocket, designed to be the most powerful in history when in operation, was prepared for liftoff from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida about two weeks ago.

Testing began at 5pm this Friday local time with a “call to stations” as members of the launch control team arrive in the rooms and begin a countdown of more than 45 hours.

With the SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule attached to the top lit, crews continue to load 3.2 million liters of fuel and perform procedures such as countdown pauses and other checks.

RS-25 rocket engines have been tested before and will not fire. What the team will do is stop the countdown about 10 seconds before takeoff, to simulate a “scrub”, when the launch is aborted due to technical or weather issues.

The fuel will be drained and a few days later the SLS and Orion will return to the vehicle assembly building for progress assessments.

Test milestones will be posted on NASA’s blog for the Artemis mission, but the agency will not release live internal audio from the test, as it has done in the past for space shuttle missions.

Whitmeyer explained that this is because some key information, including time sequences, could help other countries that want to develop long-range missiles.

“We are very, very sensitive to cryogenic launch vehicles of this size and capability, they are very similar to the ballistic-type capabilities that our countries are very interested in,” he said, although he added that the agency could reassess its capability position in the future. . /AFP

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