KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Teams are preparing to move NASA's next-generation moon rocket to the Florida launchpad on Tuesday ahead of the long-awaited Artemis 1 liftoff later this month.
The Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft have been inside the Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), undergoing final preparations ahead of the targeted Aug. 29 maiden voyage. The mission, known as Artemis 1, will send a crewless Orion spacecraft to orbit the moon on a 42-day mission.
On Monday, NASA said engineers and technicians had completed their work on the rocket and spacecraft, allowing the rollout to begin Tuesday.
NASA's crawler transporter has been moved into position near the VAB in preparation to move the 322-foot-tall SLS, Orion and its mobile launch tower to the launch complex. The crawler will drive the mobile launcher and Artemis-1 to launchpad 39B, taking about 11 hours to complete the 4-mile move at speeds between 1 and 2.8 mph.
The first movement is expected at 9 p.m. Tuesday. NASA plans to air a live stream of the rollout progress beginning at 3 p.m. on YouTube.
The move will make for the third trek to the launchpad for the Artemis 1 rocket. NASA first rolled the 32-story-tall vehicle to launchpad 39B in March for the first wet dress rehearsal attempt. After needing some repairs to complete the countdown test, teams moved the rocket back inside the VAB before its most recent trip to the pad in June, when NASA was able to complete the final test needed before launch.
After the SLS arrives at launchpad 39B, teams will spend about two weeks preparing the rocket for launch. Countdown activities will begin approximately 45 hours before liftoff, which requires fueling the SLS with more than 700,000 gallons of super-cold rocket fuel.
The SLS and Orion are set to launch no earlier than Aug. 29 during a two-hour window opening at 8:33 a.m.
The mission is to send Orion on an extended lunar orbit, traveling a distance of about 280,000 miles from Earth around the moon. The Artemis 1 mission will culminate on Oct. 10 with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
There are many goals of this test flight, including testing Orion’s communication, navigation and guidance systems, ensuring the overall launch and performance of SLS and ensuring Orion’s heat shield can withstand Earth re-entry at 25,000 mph.
Around 100,000 people are expected to travel to Florida's Space Coast to see the historic launch. If you're one of the thousands traveling to witness the launch, here is a list of possible viewing spots.
If the launch is delayed, the space agency also has Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as backup launch dates.
While Artemis 1 will not have any humans aboard, the Artemis 2 mission is expected to launch a crew of four astronauts from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
Under the Artemis program, NASA plans to return humans to the moon by 2025.