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The Artemis I mega moon rocket is getting ready for its latest attempt at a final prelaunch test, according to an update from NASA officials on Friday.
The NASA team is preparing to roll the 322-foot-tall (98-meter-tall) Artemis I rocket stack, including the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, back to the launchpad on June 6 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rollout is expected to last for about 12 hours.
The Artemis rocket will go through its next attempt of the wet dress rehearsal no earlier than June 19. Given that June can bring plenty of pop-up thunderstorms in Florida, the NASA team will keep a close eye on the weather and adjust dates as necessary.
The crucial test, known as the wet dress rehearsal, simulates every stage of launch without the rocket leaving the launchpad. This process includes loading supercold propellant, going through a full countdown simulating launch, resetting the countdown clock and draining the rocket tanks.
After three attempts of the wet dress rehearsal in April, the rocket stack was rolled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building on April 26 to address issues that cropped up during the test attempts.
Since then, engineers have replaced and tested a check valve on the upper stage and fixed a small leak within the tail service mast umbilical used during fueling, said Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager at NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program.
Meanwhile, Air Liquide, which supplies gaseous nitrogen to the launchpad, has upgraded and tested its pipeline configuration to better support the testing and launch of Artemis I.
The Artemis team also checked off some get-ahead tasks that were originally meant to take place after the next wet dress rehearsal.
The mission team is now looking at launch windows for sending Artemis I on its journey to the moon in late summer: between July 26 and August 9, August 23 to August 29, September 2 to September 6 and beyond.
Once the Artemis rocket stack completes its wet dress rehearsal, it will roll back into the building to wait for launch day.
There is a long history behind the arduous process to test new systems before launching a rocket, and what the Artemis team is facing is similar to what the Apollo and shuttle era teams experienced, including multiple test attempts and delays before launch.
The results of the wet dress rehearsal will determine when the uncrewed Artemis I will launch on a mission that goes beyond the moon and returns to Earth. This mission will kick off NASA’s Artemis program, which is expected to return humans to the moon and land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface by 2025.