NASA’s next-generation moon rocket was due on March 17 to make a slow-moving, highly anticipated journey from an assembly plant to its launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a final round of tests to determine how soon the spacecraft can be launched into space.
After decades of inactivity and setbacks, the rollout of the 32-story tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion crew capsule perched atop marks a key milestone in U. S. plans of renewed lunar exploration and the American public’s first glimpse of a space vehicle over a decade in development.
The process of transporting the 5.75-million ton, gigantic SLS-Orion spacecraft out of its Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral was scheduled to start at 5:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (2100 GMT).
Slowly transporting the mega-spacecraft, which stands taller than the Statue of Liberty, on a 4-mile (6.5 km) journey is expected to take about 11 hours. The spectacle will be telecast live on NASA Television and the space organization’s website.
Once the SLS rocket is secured at the launchpad, the mega-rocket will be prepared for a critical pre-flight test called a “wet dress rehearsal,” which will begin on April 3 and conclude two days later. NASA’s engineers plan to fully load the SLS core fuel tanks with liquid oxygen and super-cooled hydrogen propellant and conduct a simulated launch countdown—stopping seconds before the spacecraft four R-25 engines would ignite—in a top-to-bottom evaluation of the rocket’s entire system.