Artemis-1 Just got a Little Closer
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
On Friday October 30th, NASA concluded the final test of the Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) by driving it back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) after a weeklong excursion out at Launch Complex-39B. This step gets us just a little bit closer to the inaugural flight of the mighty Space Launch System (SLS) with Artemis-1. During that test, NASA rehearsed the process of driving the MLP out to the pad and hooking it up to the ground Systems in place.
Now this isn’t the only recent milestone of the Artemis Program. As of the writing of this article almost every component of Artemis-1 is being processed at Kennedy Space Center. Orion is currently located at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building (O&C). Here, it’s Solar Arrays have been completed and the three spacecraft adapter jettison fairings are being readied for installation. Once this is completed, all that remains is to fuel it up and lastly have the Launch Abort System (LAS) be stacked on top and Orion can go to the VAB.
The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) has actually been processed and ready for Artemis-1 since 2017. It has been kept at the Space Station Processing Facility at KSC, the same place where all the ISS components to be launched by the Space Shuttle were processed.
All ten segments of the two massive Solid Rocket Boosters we sent out to KSC in June from their factory in Promontory Utah, via rail. They are currently being processed out at the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility (RPSF) until they can be stacked at the VAB. Recently they painted the NASA worm logo on two of the segments, showing NASA's commitment to bringing back the worm.
The launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) was recently transported to the VAB from Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, where it will stay until stacking commences on top of the MLP. It was transported there by the Pegasus Barge, the very same one that transported all of External Tanks for the Space Shuttle and will soon transport the final component, the core stage.
The Core Stage has been riddled with complications for a multitude of reasons but in December of 2019, it was officially completed and was to be sent to Stennis Space Center, where it will conduct a series of tests ending with a full duration static fire test known as the Green Run Test. Once out at Stennis Space Center, they conducted the first test in January 2020 but when they were in the process of setting up the second of eight tests, on March 18th, operations were paused due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19. Work resumed in May 2020, but at a slower place as the facility could only operate at a limited capacity to mitigate the spread of the virus. As of early November 2020, the core Stage is currently in the process of conducting its seventh test with the eighth and final one, currently scheduled for Mid-November. Once this is completed, the core stage shall be shipped to KSC and await at the VAB for stacking on to the MLP, before being sent out to LC-39B and hopefully launch in November 2021.