NASA's Artemis 1 moon rocket is ready for its next close-up.
The world got its first good look at the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule that will fly on Artemis 1 two weeks ago, when the duo rolled out to its launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 17 and 18.
The Artemis 1 stack rolled out to gear up for a round of tests centering on a "wet dress rehearsal," which will take SLS and Orion through many of their launch-day procedures. The wet dress rehearsal has been scheduled for this coming weekend, and NASA recently gave that timeline the official go-ahead.
"In a pre-test review on March 28, NASA gave the 'go' to proceed with the Artemis 1 wet dress rehearsal scheduled for April 1-3," NASA officials wrote in an update (opens in new tab) on Monday (March 28).
"The approximately two-day test will run the Artemis 1 launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock and also drain the tanks to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch," the officials added.
If all goes according to plan, the test will officially begin at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) on Friday (April 1) and wrap up roughly 48 hours later, around 5 p.m. on Sunday (April 3), NASA officials said during a call with reporters on Tuesday (March 29). The simulated countdown will occur on Sunday afternoon.
Artemis 1 will launch an uncrewed Orion on a roughly month-long mission around the moon, with the aim of showing that both SLS and Orion are ready to carry astronauts on deep-space treks.
NASA has not yet set a launch date for Artemis 1 and won't do so until teams have had a chance to analyze data gathered during the wet dress rehearsal and other tests, agency officials have said. The mission is unlikely to launch before June, however.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, NASA will be clear to gear up for the next mission in its Artemis program of crewed lunar exploration. That flight, Artemis 2, will launch astronauts around the moon in 2024, if current timelines hold. Artemis 3 will land astronauts near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).