Artemis 1 mission: Nasa announces potential launch dates for mega Moon rocket

Nasa is targeting August 29, September 2 and September 5 for a launch of the world's most powerful rocket

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Nasa has announced a potential launch window between the end of August and early September for a test flight of its Artemis 1 Moon rocket.

At a virtual conference held on Wednesday, the space agency earmarked August 29, September 2 and 5 as possible dates for the uncrewed flight, which will measure the performance of the world’s most powerful rocket, Space Launch System, and Orion spacecraft.

Nasa said it would schedule these days, but a firm date will be selected a week before, depending on if preparations go as planned and if weather is permitting.

Artemis 1 is the first of many planned flights under the Artemis programme, which aims to build a sustainable human presence on the Moon.

The plan includes sending the next man, first woman and first person of colour to the lunar surface.

"Those are dates just like other missions hold, so it's not an agency commitment," Jim Free, associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at Nasa headquarters, said of the possible rocket launch dates.

"We'll make the agency commitment at the flight readiness review, which is just a little over a week before launch.

"But these are the dates that the team is working to."

The 101-metre-tall Space Launch System has been in development for many years. Engineers completed a wet dress rehearsal and a fuelling and practice countdown test of the rocket on June 20 to see if it was ready for a launch.

The rocket and Orion spacecraft was moved back to the garage, or Vehicle Assembly Building, so engineers could fix the source of a hydrogen leak and ensure it was flight ready.

The SLS will eventually take off with 3,991 tonnes of thrust, soaring at speeds of 40,233 kilometres per hour in about eight minutes to reach space. It will deliver Orion into its intended orbit, where it will begin its journey towards the Moon.

The spacecraft will fly 100km above the Moon’s surface and then use its gravitation force to be captured into an opposite orbit about 70,000km from the Moon. It will stay there for six days to collect data and allow mission control to measure the spacecraft’s performance.

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

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

Nasa and its international partners are also developing the Lunar Gateway, a small station that would be placed in lunar orbit that would support the Artemis programme.

It would allow crew to dock their spacecraft to the Gateway and offer a space for astronauts to live and work and carry out science investigations.

Updated: July 20, 2022, 4:02 PM