NASA engineers have fixed a bug in the 'brain' of the SLS mega rocket, which will eventually take the first woman and the next man to land on the moon's surface.
The $ 20 billion Space Launch System (SLS) has been under development since 2011 and has been hit by several delays and problems over the past decade.
Its first launch recently slipped from late last year to early March this year due to a problem with the built-in engine controller that acts as the brain for each of the powerful RS-25 engines propelling the rocket into orbit.
The US space agency has now replaced the components, and all four engine controllers have performed well in tests, paving the way for its first launch.
NASA engineers have fixed a bug in the 'brain' of the SLS mega rocket, which will eventually take the first woman and next man to land on the moon's surface
The $ 20 billion Space Launch System (SLS) has been under development since 2011 and has been hit by several delays and problems over the past decade
As NASA prepared for launch last year, engineers noted that some electronics on the controller module could not turn on in a uniform manner during a test.
With an estimated $ 1 billion per year. launch, the space agency wants to ensure that any problems or errors are intercepted before the disposable rocket leaves Earth.
So the launch was delayed to allow for more tests, an investigation into the cause of the 'error' in the controller.
After being replaced, NASA has now confirmed that all controllers are working as expected and the SLS is ready for launch.
It is housed in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and with the Orion module on top, it stands at 322 feet.
When launched, the rocket will produce 8.8 million lbs of pressure, which is more than the Saturn V rocket that took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon in the 60s and 70s.
The first test launch of SLS will be Artemis I, which will see the mega rocket propel an empty Orion capsule into space and on a journey to the moon and back.
The Artemis missions have faced their own problems, including with the development of spacesuits and the human landing systems that will take the crew to the surface.
However, many of the delays have been the result of problems with the SLS itself and legal issues, caused by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, unsuccessfully suing NASA over a decision to award the contract for the Human Lander system exclusively to Blue Origin.
In November, NASA extended its target date to send astronauts back to the moon from 2024 to 2025 at the earliest.
Its first launch recently slipped from late last year to early March this year due to a problem with the built-in engine controller that acts as the brain of each of the powerful RS-25 engines - propelling the rocket into orbit
NASA'S ROCKET IS THE LARGEST EVER MADE AND LETS PEOPLE DEVELOP THE SOLAR SYSTEM
The Space Launch System, or SLS, is a launch vehicle that NASA hopes will take its astronauts back to the moon and beyond.
The rocket will have an initial lift configuration to be launched in the early 2020s, followed by an upgraded 'developed lifting capacity' that can carry heavier payloads.
Space Launch System Initial lifting capacity
- Virgin Flight: Mid-2020s
- Elevation: 311 feet (98 meters)
- Lift: 70 tons
- Weight: 2.5 million kg (5.5 million lbs)
Space Launch System Developed lifting capacity
- Virgin flight: Unknown
- Elevation: 384 feet (117 meters)
- Lift: 130 tons
- Weight: 2.9 million kg (6.5 million lbs)
Following the Artemis I mission in March, NASA will take stock, see how SLS and Orion fared, and prepare to send a crew on a trip around the moon.
Administrator Bill Nelson said they are now aiming for May 2024 for the manned test flight of Orion and SLS on Artemis II - to push the landing to 2025.
Nelson says the seven-month lawsuits over the Blue Origin lawsuit, the coronavirus pandemic and unexpected cost increases that push SLS to nearly $ 20 billion have all played a role in the schedule change.
The 2024 deadline was first unveiled by then-Vice President Mike Pence during a meeting of the White House space council in 2019 and was considered an attempt by then-President Donald Trump to see people on the Moon during his second term.
Before that can happen, NASA has to send the spacecraft on its own around the moon.
The Artemis I mission will see the Orion spacecraft, SLS and the Earth systems at Kennedy combine to launch Orion 280,000 miles past Earth around the moon during a three-week mission.
This spacecraft, primarily built by Lockheed Martin, will stay in space 'longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking at a space station and returning home faster and hotter than ever before,' NASA has previously said.
The Artemis II mission plans to send four astronauts in the first manned Orion capsule into a lunar flight over a maximum of 21 days.
Both missions are test flights to demonstrate the technology and capabilities of the Orion, SLS and Artemis missions before NASA puts human boots back on the moon.
The Artemis mission will be the first to land humans on the moon since NASA's Apollo 17 in 1972.
NASA will land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify her way back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the moon's surface in 2024 - including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA's deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an unmanned flight that will form the basis for human exploration of deep space and demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon during a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the different stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking at a space station and returning home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space, where astronauts will build and begin testing the near-moon systems needed for the moon's surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
They will take the crew on another path and test Orion's critical systems with people on board.
Together, the Orion, SLS, and Kennedy Earth systems will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Finally, NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advances and lay the foundations for private companies to build a lunar economy.