NASA is preparing SLS megarockets for crewed lunar missions.

 

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for NASA's Artemis 2 mission arrived at the Space Coast on July 28, 2021. It is undergoing final preparations at prime contractors Boeing and United Launch Alliance's facilities and will soon be delivered to nearby Kennedy Space Center. (Image credit: NASA)
The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for NASA's Artemis 2 mission arrived at the
 Space Coast on July 28, 2021. It is undergoing final preparations at prime contractors 
Boeing and United Launch Alliance's facilities and will soon be delivered to nearby Kennedy Space Center. 
 (Image credit: NASA)

The enormous rockets that will send NASA astronauts to the moon a few years from now are really beginning to come together.

Artemis 2, NASA's next crewed moon mission, is scheduled to launch in 2024 on a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, according to a short status report published on Tuesday (Jan. 11) by NASA officials. Testing and production of SLS components are already ongoing for the moon-landing Artemis 3 mission, presently targeted for no sooner than 2025, and its successor Artemis 4, the agency added.

According to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama's SLS program manager, John Honeycutt, "The Space Launch System team is not just constructing one rocket, but producing numerous rockets for exploratory missions and future SLS flights beyond the maiden Artemis launch."

"The Artemis 1 mission is the first in a succession of more complicated missions that will expand our presence on the moon," Honeycutt stated. "The SLS rocket's unparalleled power and capability will deliver missions further and quicker across the solar system."

To prepare for launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Artemis 2 SLS's intermediate cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) arrived in July (KSC). According to NASA officials, the ICPS is now completing up final preparations at United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Boeing facilities in preparation for delivery to KSC. The ICPS for the Artemis 3 SLS is under development at ULA's plant in Decatur, Alabama. The Orion crew capsule will be pushed toward the moon using the stage.

Meanwhile, the boosters and RS-25 engines for the Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 rockets are "in the final phases of construction," NASA officials stated. The Artemis 2 engines are integrated with the SLS core stage at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The Artemis 3 engines are under preparation at an Aerojet Rocketdyne facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (The RS-25's principal contractor is Aerojet Rocketdyne.) RS-25 manufacture on missions beyond Artemis 4 is continuing.

Northrop Grumman's workers also finished casting booster motor segments for Artemis 2 and 3 in Utah and are already commencing work on pieces for Artemis 4, NASA officials said. Artemis 4 will have four booster motor segments.

In the report, NASA also referred to development on features like the cone-shaped launch vehicle stage adapters for Artemis 2 and 3 and panel production for a universal stage adapter test item for future flights.

Human habitation of the moon and its vicinity is a long-term goal of NASA's Artemis crewed lunar exploration mission.

The space agency now seeks to place astronauts on the lunar surface no sooner than 2025 on the Artemis 3 mission. Under President Donald Trump's administration, this mission was initially slated for 2024. But it was put back for several reasons, from budget challenges to technical concerns with items such as spacesuits to now-resolved court litigation challenging the Artemis Human Landing System contract, which was given to SpaceX in April 2021.

 

Also Read: NASA’s New IXPE Mission Opens Its Eyes and Is Ready for Discovery.

 

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