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NASA's SLS Mega-Rocket Could Launch Within 8 Weeks

Sunday July 3, 2022. 06:34 PM , from Slashdot
Tuesday Ars Technica reported that 'after more than a decade and more than $20 billion in funding, NASA and its litany of contractors are very close to declaring the 111-meter tall rocket ready for its debut launch.' Long-time Slashdot reader added 'It seems silly saying SLS will launch 'in just two months' for a rocket that was supposed to have first flown in 2016, but here we are.'

From Ars Technica's report:
On June 20, NASA successfully counted the rocket down to T-29 seconds during a pre-launch fueling test. Although they did not reach T-9 seconds, as was the original goal, the agency's engineers collected enough data to satisfy the requisite information to proceed toward a launch.

During a pair of news conferences last week, NASA officials declined to set a launch target for the mission. However, in an interview Tuesday with Ars, NASA's senior exploration official, Jim Free, said the agency is working toward a launch window of August 23 to September 6. 'That's the one we're targeting,' Free said. 'We'd be foolish not to target that right now. We made incredible progress last week.'

Next up is rolling the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center for final launch preparations, including arming the flight termination system. A team of technicians and engineers will also replace a seal on a 'quick disconnect' where a hydrogen leak was observed during fuel loading.... [W]orkers have made their plans to process the vehicle during a relatively quick turnaround. 'That group knows exactly what they need to do when we get back,' he said. 'I don't think we're stretching ourselves to get there. We're probably pushing ourselves a little bit, but we're not going to do something stupid.' On this timeline, the SLS rocket could roll back to the launch pad in less than two months.
Friday the Register reported that the rocket's rollback encountered 'a delay caused by concerns over the crawlerway' — that is, the 4.2-mile (6.8 km) road of rocks:
The massive transporter used to move the Space Launch System between Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and launchpad requires a level pathway and teams have been working on the inclined pathway leading to the launchpad where the rocket currently resides to ensure there is an even distribution of rocks to support the mobile launcher and rocket.
But reported that the roll back actually happened on Saturday — apparently taking ten hours and 18 minutes, 'slightly faster than the expected travel time of 11 hours....

'After returning to the VAB, SLS has another six to eight weeks of final launch preparations ahead of the rollout for the debut mission. This still makes the planned launch window possible, although the margins are slim.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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