NASA held a media briefing today where they discussed yet another delay to the Artemis program, though this time it’s mainly the result of needing to “close-out” a long list of items ahead of the wet dress rehearsal.
Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development told media on teleconference today in response to a reporters questions that “there’s no one specific thing, we just have a lot of things that we need to close out. This is a big vehicle. It’s a lot of instrumentation that needs to be finished and prepared for the final closeout activity.”
And with that NASA said the roll-out of the Space launch System (SLS) rocket to the launch pad for its final “wet dress rehearsal” has been pushed back to no earlier than mid-March.
So when will the Artemis 1 rocket launch?
Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis I mission manager said the first launch window is between April 8-23 and the second is between May 7-21.
On the NASA Artemis blog NASA stated that “Engineers are conducting final integrated tests of Orion and SLS along with the ground equipment, prior to rolling the rocket and spacecraft to the launch pad for a final test, known as the wet dress rehearsal. This final test will run the rocket and launch team through operations to load propellant into the fuel tanks and conduct a full launch countdown. Following a successful rehearsal, NASA will roll the stack back into the VAB for final checks and set a target date for launch.”
The turnaround from the wet dress rehearsal is likely no less than two weeks, and that’s if nothing comes up during the final pad test. That would suggest that launching in April could be pushing things. In fact, NASA said they are currently working 24/7, with three shifts, to push through all the work that needs to be done ahead of the wet dress rehearsal. Considering how long it’s taken to get to this point, not to mention the costs, making sure everything is done properly, and that everything works on this new rocket ahead of launch, is critical.