Today (IST) at approximately 2.30 pm, the launch team checks into their stations at the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin the weight dress rehearsal test for NASA’s Artemis I mission. The team begins the countdown approximately 30 minutes later, or at 3 p.m.; Tuesday, June 21 at 12.10 pm, 45 hours 10 minutes ahead of target T0.
The teams will power the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) core stage and build the rocket’s four RS-35 engines, which will not burn up during the test. But these are subject to weather constraints that stipulate that the probability of a lightning strike within 5 knots of the pad during the first hour of tanking must be less than 20 percent. Also the winds should not be above 37.5 knots and the temperature should not be below 5 °C.
NASA will be streaming live video of the rocket and spacecraft from Launch Pad 39B, which you can watch below. The space agency will also provide live commentary on the start of tanking operations on June 20. Note that there will probably not be any activity visible on the launch pad during most of the lockdown. But some venting may be visible during propellant loading.
In April of this year, NASA re-established the SLS and Orion spacecraft after three failed attempts to complete a weight dress rehearsal. It was rolled off from Launchpad 39B and returned to the Caverns Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Once completed and successfully tested, the SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built. Designed to launch all of NASA’s Artemis missions that plan to return humans to the Moon, it was initially scheduled for launch in June. But it had to be pushed back as it had not completed the full weight dress rehearsal yet.
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The rehearsal includes a series of major tests designed to show that the SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft and their associated ground infrastructure are ready to go. NASA launched the first attempt on April 1. The rocket was supposed to wrap up 48 hours after loading of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants and some simulated countdowns. But the team faced some problems and finally had to stand after several unsuccessful attempts.
NASA later announced that all defects found during the initial rehearsal attempts had been corrected and that there was no damage to the spacecraft and rocket due to the strong thunderstorm that struck the launchpad.