The new giant rocket POT began its first transfer to a launch pad on Thursday to undergo a series of tests that, if successful, will allow it to embark on its mission to reach the Moon East boreal summer.

The SLS rocket left the assembly building of the Kennedy Space Centeron Floridaaround 17:47 (21:47 GMT) and will take eleven hours to arrive, transported by a huge vehicle, to the legendary launch complex 39B, located just over six kilometers away.

astronomical cost

with the capsule Orion At its tip, the SLS rocket is 98 meters tall, more than the Statue of Libertybut a little less than the 110 meters of the Saturn V rocketwho sent the man to the Moon during missions Apollo.

However, the SLS will have a thrust of 39.1 meganewtons, 15% more than Saturn V, making it the most powerful rocket in the world.

“It’s a symbol of our country,” he told reporters this week. Tom Whitmeyera senior official of the POT.

A symbol, however, accompanied by a bill of 4.1 billion dollars (3.7 billion euros) per launch for the first four missions Artemis to the Moon, the inspector general of the US space agency stressed before Congress this month, Paul Martin.

Once it hits the launch pad, engineers will have about two weeks to run a series of tests before a pre-launch dress rehearsal.

On April 3, the SLS team will load more than three million liters of cryogenic fuel into the rocket and repeat each stage of the countdown until the last 10 seconds, without starting the engines.

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The rocket will then be defueled for a safe aborted launch demonstration.

To the Moon and beyond

NASA is targeting a first launch window in May for Artemis 1an unmanned lunar mission that will be the first to combine the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule.

The SLS will first place Orion in low Earth orbit before, thanks to its upper stage, performing a “translunar injection”.

This maneuver is necessary to send Orion more than 450,000 km from Earth. Land and almost 64,000 km beyond the Moonfurther than any other spacecraft crewable.

During its three-week mission, Orion will deploy ten satellites called CubeSatsthe size of a shoebox, which will collect information about deep space.

The capsule will move towards the far side of the Moon using its thrusters provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), and then it will return to Earth, specifically to the Pacific, off the coast of California.

We will have to wait for Artemis 2, scheduled for 2024, to see a manned test flight. Then the capsule will go around the Moon, without landing on it, while Artemis 3scheduled for 2025 at the earliest, which will carry the first woman and the first black person to lunar soil, at the south pole of the satellite.

NASA wants to test some technologies on the Moon that it wants to use during its future missions to Mars in the 2030s.

SLS or Starship

With its implementation SLS will enter the category of “super-heavy” launchers, for the time being only made up of the Falcon Heavy from Space Xwhich is smaller than the SLS.

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The company of Elon Musk is developing another rocket for deep space: star shipwhich is fully reusable and which the billionaire said would be ready for an orbital test this year.

Starship will be bigger and more powerful than the SLS: at 120 meters tall, it will have an output of 75 meganewtons and will be much cheaper.

According Elon Muskwithin a few years the cost per launch could be reduced to 10 million dollars (9 million euros).

But the two rockets are not comparable: the SLS is designed to arrive directly at its final destination, while SpaceX plans to place a rocket star ship into orbit and then resupply it with another Starship rocket to extend its range and payload.

NASA has also contracted with SpaceX for a version of Starship that would be used as a landing vehicle for the Moon to Artemis.

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