After wrapping up testing of its next-generation Space Launch System last month, NASA has now announced a series of launch windows in which it could take off for the first time. This uncrewed demo flight could come as soon as next month if things run smoothly, though the agency also lists a series of subsequent launch windows for later in the year.
The SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built and is designed to fire its Orion capsule towards the Moon. Leaks and faulty valves set this program back and extinguished hopes for a May launch, but in late June the NASA team was finally satisfied that the necessary boxes were ticked.
Which brings us to the launch of Artemis 1, the first in NASA’s Artemis program designed to return astronauts to the Moon. Jim Free, associate administrator of Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, expanded on this in a media briefing today.
“We have placeholders on the range for August 29, September 2, September 5,” Free told reporters.
Free went on to explain that these dates aren’t an agency commitment, which will come after a flight readiness review a little over a week before launch. If things don’t got to plan, the agency has outlined a number of launch windows for later in the year, which roughly fall into a pattern of two weeks on, two weeks off. These launch windows must be timed with the Moon’s position in its lunar cycle in order to maximize chances of a successful entry to orbit.
Following the initial dates slated by Free today, another launch window is listed for September 19 to October 4, and then another from October 17 to 31.