NASA SLS gets to the Launch Pad

Space Coast, FL – Over 11 years, from concept to reality the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) is now at LC-39B. This idea that was conceived during the Shuttle Program came to life when High Bay Door 3 opened up on Thursday.

NASA SLS and Orion Spacecraft perched on LC-39B
NASA SLS and Orion Spacecraft perched on LC-39B | photo: Crystal Gabriel

This first roll out to the pad is in preparation for a final test before its Artemis I Moon mission. The uncrewed flight test will pave the way for missions to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis.

Stacked on the mobile launcher and mounted on the crawler-transporter for a journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B, it took 10-hours and 28 minutes for SLS and Orion to reach the launch pad four miles away. The trip began at 5:47 p.m. EDT Thursday, March 17, and the 322-foot tall, 3.5-million-pound rocket and spacecraft arrived at the pad at 4:15 a.m. EDT on March 18.

NASA SLS as seen from the crawler pathway to LC-39B
NASA SLS as seen from the crawler pathway to LC-39B | photo: Jon Van Horne

SLS Wet Dress Rehearsal

The upcoming final test, known as the wet dress rehearsal, will run the Artemis I launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain the tanks to practice the timelines and procedures the team will use for launch.

Rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building is an iconic moment for this rocket and spacecraft, and this is a key milestone for NASA, Now at the pad for the first time, we will use the integrated systems to practice the launch countdown and load the rocket with the propellants it needs to send Orion on a lunar journey in preparation for launch.

- Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for Common Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters, Washington
Early morning fog clearing way unveiling the SLS at LC-39B
Early morning fog clearing way unveiling the SLS at LC-39B | photo: Crystal Gabriel

Before the test, SLS, Orion, and the associated ground systems will undergo checkouts at the pad. After the rehearsal, NASA will review data from the test before setting a specific target launch date for the upcoming Artemis I launch. The integrated rocket and spacecraft will roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building several days after the test to remove sensors used during the rehearsal, charge system batteries, stow late-load cargo, and run final checkouts. Orion and SLS will then roll to the launch pad for a final time about a week before launch.

With Artemis, NASA will establish long-term exploration at the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s foundation for deep space exploration.

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