World’s most powerful rocket will soon take astronauts to the Moon

The Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft are scheduled for a test flight to the Moon next year

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US space agency Nasa is preparing to roll out the world’s most powerful rocket to a launch pad, part of a pre-launch test for its first Artemis mission to the Moon.

The agency is prepping the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 1 launch, which will involve a three-week, un-crewed test flight to the Moon.

The 101-metre tall rocket weighs 2,608 tonnes and will generate 3,991 tonnes of thrust when it lifts off.

Nasa plans to launch the first mission on February 12 from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre Launch Complex 39B.

“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,” the agency said on its website.

“It will travel 280,000 miles (450,616 kilometres) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon, over the course of about a three-week mission.

“Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.”

During the roll-out test, the rocket will be loaded with more than three million litres of super-cold propellants.

The team will run through the launch countdown sequence that will end before the engine ignites.

After the test, the rocket and spacecraft will be placed back in the vehicle assembly buildings for final checks before launch.

The Artemis programme aims to build a sustainable human presence on the Moon, including a lunar-orbiting station, called Gateway, capable of accommodating astronauts.

Artemis 2 launch is planned for 2024 and includes a crewed mission that will orbit the Moon.

Artemis 3, the first human lunar mission under the programme, has been delayed until 2025.

During Artemis 1, the Orion spacecraft will fly 100 kilometres above the Moon’s surface and then use its gravitation force to get captured into an opposite orbit about 70,000km from the Moon.

It will stay there for about six days to collect data and to allow mission control to measure the spacecraft’s performance.

For its return trip to Earth, Orion will perform another close fly-by of the Moon, before firing its engines to accelerate back towards Earth.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 11:57 AM