NASA says there’s a chance that its next-generation rocket, the Space Launch System, could launch for the first time this summer with a possible launch window opening in late August. The rocket, which recently completed a pre-launch test called the wet dress rehearsal, still has some tweaks required before it can be launched, however.
The wet dress rehearsal, which took a number of tries to get right since the first attempt in April, was deemed a success upon its completion on Monday, June 20. Though the team did have to make some changes to the test to get the rocket through it, including masking off data related to a hydrogen leak which would have resulted in the calling off of a real launch. Now the rocket will be returned to its temporary home, called the Vehicle Assembly Building or VAB, so engineers can replace the hardware that caused the leak.
Even with these niggling issues, NASA has been positive about the wet dress rehearsal and progress in getting the much-delayed rocket ready for launch.
“During the wet dress rehearsal activities, we have incrementally added to our knowledge about how the rocket and the ground systems work together, and our teams have become proficient in launch procedures across multiple sites. We have completed the rehearsal phase, and everything we’ve learned will help improve our ability to lift off during the target launch window,” said Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems at NASA Headquarters, in a statement. “The team is now ready to take the next step and prepare for launch.”
The plan for the launch is to send the SLS rocket, topped with the Orion capsule, on the uncrewed mission Artemis I around the moon to get it ready for an eventual crewed moon mission. The plan before the wet dress rehearsal was for the launch to occur during a launch window opening in August 2022, which is an option NASA says is “still on the table,” according to space.com.
NASA says it will announce a firm target launch date for the Artemis I mission once it has returned the rocket to the VAB and replaced the hardware which caused the leak.