NASA says its SLS megarocket is now ready to launch humans to the moon

The SLS rocket passed its first test with flying colors.
Chris Young
The first SLS flight
The first SLS flight


NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is ready to send humans to the moon.

The U.S. space agency launched the megarocket to orbit for its Artemis I mission on November 16, where it slinged the uncrewed, human-rated Orion capsule to lunar orbit and back.

Now, NASA has stated that SLS, the world's most powerful operational rocket, is ready to launch astronauts on the same journey for its Artemis II mission.

NASA's Space Launch System passes its first test

NASA debuted the SLS megarocket on November 16, following numerous delays. The rocket sent the uncrewed Orion capsule on a 25-day trip around the moon and back, leading to a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.

NASA's initial assessment of SLS' Artemis I performance, released on November 30, stated that the rocket performed successfully and that it carried out all of its intended functions. Since then, NASA officials have had more time to study the data and have once again given SLS a high score for mission success.

In its statement, NASA says that "building off the assessment conducted shortly after launch, the preliminary post-flight data indicates that all SLS systems performed exceptionally and that the designs are ready to support a crewed flight on Artemis 2."

"The post-flight analysis team will continue reviewing data and conducting final reportings," the statement added.

The data showed, for example, that the thrust levels of the four RS-25 engines on the core stage of SLS performed within 0.5 percent of the expected values.

NASA officials drew from a wealth of data, including camera footage of the launch totaling about 31 terabytes of data. "The numerous views of the Artemis 1 rocket, including the solid rocket booster separation and interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) separation, provided imagery data that helped us assess how SLS performed from liftoff through the ascent and separation events," Beth St. Peter, SLS imagery integration lead, said in the statement.

The world's most powerful rocket will send humans to the moon

Artemis 2 will carry out a similar journey to that of Artemis I, with a few key differences. The mission will send NASA astronauts on a roughly 10-day mission around the moon and back, rather than the 25 days Orion traveled for Artemis I.

This is partly because the goal of Artemis I was to stress test SLS and the Orion capsule to their limits. Artemis II will place a stronger focus on safety, given that it will carry a crew of astronauts. If all goes to plan, the launch of Artemis II is expected to occur in 2024.

NASA's SLS rocket generated a massive 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, making it the most powerful rocket in the world. This may soon be overtaken by SpaceX's Starship rocket, which is expected to generate an enormous 17 million pounds of thrust thanks to its 33 next-gen Raptor engines. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently stated that a March orbital launch attempt for Starship was highly likely.

If Artemis II succeeds, SLS and Starship will work together to achieve the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. SLS will launch a crew of astronauts for Artemis III. They will then transfer a modified Starship vehicle to serve as a lunar lander for the historic mission.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board