Miami, Nov 4 (EFE).- NASA concluded Friday the transfer of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to Launch Complex 39B at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center ahead of the planned Nov. 14 launch of the uncrewed Artemis I lunar mission.
Technicians recharged the batteries of the Space Launch System rocket late Thursday before it began the 6.8 km (4.2 mi) journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch complex aboard the massive crawler-transporter.
Moving at the stately pace of 1.2 km/h (0.8 mph), the crawler took nearly nine hours to move the SLS.
Built at a cost of more than $4 billion, the rocket towers 98 m (322 ft) above the ground.
The space agency is preparing for a fourth attempt to launch the first lunar mission mounted by the United States since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The first try, on Aug. 29, was called off due to a problem with a sensor, while a launch set for Sept. 3 was scrubbed after NASA detected a hydrogen leak.
Officials subsequently rescheduled the launch for Sept. 27, but had to postpone because of the threat of bad weather and subsequently moved the rocket and spacecraft back inside the VAB as Hurricane Ian was approaching Florida.
During a news briefing on Thursday, Jim Free, associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, said that officials expect the mission to launch on Nov. 14.
“If we weren’t confident, we wouldn’t roll out. If we weren’t confident, we wouldn’t start the countdown when we do so. We’re confident moving forward,” he said.
Free said that NASA is keeping a close eye on a potential tropical storm near Puerto Rico that could affect Florida next week.
The launch window for Nov. 14 starts at 12:07 am and extends for 69 minutes. In the event of a problem, NASA has designated backup two-hour launch windows on Nov. 16 and Nov. 19.
If Artemis I launches Nov. 14, the mission plan calls for the Orion spacecraft to complete the 1.3 million mile roundtrip to the moon in just under 26 days, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 9.
The crewed Artemis II and Artemis III lunar missions are set for 2024 and 2025, respectively, as part of an ambitious program aimed at sending humans to Mars. EFE