NASA rolls Artemis 2 mobile launch tower to pad for tests (photos)

a huge launch tower sits between three lightning towers beneath a blue sky
Mobile Launcher 1 crawls toward Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 17, 2023. (Image credit: NASA)

The mobile launch platform (MLP) responsible for transporting and supporting NASA's Artemis moon rockets was just rolled to the pad for testing. 

The 380-foot-tall (115 meters) tower connects to NASA's Space Launch System megarocket (SLS), which is set to launch a crew of four astronauts around the moon on its next mission, Artemis 2, near the end of 2024.

Artemis 1 launched from the same MLP on an uncrewed lunar mission in November, 2022. When it did, the force of SLS's first-stage engines and solid rocket boosters left the tower in need of a few repairs; for example, the launch blew the structure's elevator doors off. With those repairs now complete, the MLP has been rolled out to Launch Complex 39B (LC-39B) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for testing.

Related: NASA's Artemis program: Everything you need to know

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The MLP was kept at a designated parking spot outside KSC's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where NASA's giant crawler-transporter 2 vehicle hoisted and leveled the tower for travel. 

First motion toward LC-39B occurred at 8:27 a.m. EDT (1227 GMT) on Wednesday (Aug. 16), according to a NASA press release. One of NASA's accounts on X, formerly known as Twitter, posted photos of ground teams at KSC facilitating the transfer.

NASA's Exploration Ground Systems account on X posted this photo ahead of the day's roll of the mobile launch platform on Aug. 16, 2023. (Image credit: NASA)

The 4-mile (6.4 kilometers) journey from the MLP's park site to LC-39B was completed over the course of two days, with ground teams pausing overnight. 

On Thursday morning (Aug. 17), agency social media accounts confirmed the tower's arrival at the launch pad, wrapping up its journey at approximately 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).

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Arrival of the MLP at LC-39B on Aug. 17, 2023. (Image credit: NASA)

Now secured at the pad, NASA's Exploration Ground Systems teams will spend the next several months outfitting, upgrading and testing the MLP. This work will include the addition of a 1.4-million-gallon (5.3 million liters) liquid hydrogen tank to the pad's infrastructure. The tower's egress system, which astronauts and ground teams would use to escape the launch pad during an emergency, will also be refurbished and tested, according to NASA's release.

Following a successful checkout of the MLP's systems at LC-39B, the launch tower will be transported to the VAB, where it will eventually support assembly and stacking operations for the Artemis 2 SLS rocket. If NASA's schedule holds, Artemis 2 will launch a crew of four astronauts on a journey around the moon for the first time in over 50 years. The mission is currently scheduled for late 2024.

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Josh Dinner
Writer, Content Manager

Josh Dinner is Space.com's Content Manager. He is a writer and photographer with a passion for science and space exploration, and has been working the space beat since 2016. Josh has covered the evolution of NASA's commercial spaceflight partnerships, from early Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ongoing development and launches of crewed missions from the Space Coast, as well as NASA science missions and more. He also enjoys building 1:144 scale models of rockets and human-flown spacecraft. Find some of Josh's launch photography on Instagram and his website, and follow him on Twitter, where he mostly posts in haiku.