With years of delay – many years of delay – on the initial forecasts, NASA is ready to make what will be the last major test of the SLS rocket before its first launch. It is scheduled for a two-hour window that opens at 10:00 PM, Spanish peninsular time (UTC +1) on Saturday, January 16, 2021.
During this test, the last of eight increasingly complex rocket tests, the central core of the SLS – its first stage without the external solid-fuel propellants it will use during launches – will be filled with propellants and its engines fired for the entire eight minutes. corresponding to a real launch. It can be followed from 9:20 p.m. on NASA TV.
The SLS, from Space Launch System, is destined to be, so to speak, the Saturn V of the 21st century. Although at this point it may not make much sense that NASA is developing a rocket of these characteristics when the private initiative could soon provide other cheaper options.
But in any case, after so many years of development –they have been around with it since 2011– and money invested in it, NASA is going to use it for the Artemis program. It is the program that aims to reposition a manned mission on the surface of the Moon in 2024, although I continue to bet that it will not. At least not in that year.
If the test goes well, the rocket will be sent to the Kennedy Space Center, where its solid-fuel thrusters are already being assembled. And if there are no more delays – which I doubt – the Artemis 1 mission will take off from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center in November 2021.