NASA will undertake another critical test of its Artemis 1 lunar mission this weekend.
The agency started the Artemis 1 “Wet Dress Rehearsal” — a practice run of key pre-launch activities, including rocket refueling — last Friday (April 1) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Everything was supposed to be completed about 48 hours later, but it didn’t happen; the Artemis 1 team encountered several problemswhich delayed the test.
Earlier this week, this delay turned into a standstillto host Ax-1, a private astronaut mission to the International Space Station started today (April 8) from a neighboring pad at KSC. Now that Ax-1 is safe, Artemis 1’s wet dress can be made to run again.
Live Updates: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission explained in pictures
NASA intends to start the test with a “call to the stations” on Saturday (Aug (opens in new tab) (7th of April). If all goes according to plan, Artemis 1’s refueling will be huge space launch system (SLS) rocket will take place on Monday (April 11) as well as several exercise countdowns.
The mission team will be working toward a simulated launch time of 2:40 p.m. EDT (1840 GMT) on Monday. The test then ends with activities such as draining fuel from the SLS tanks.
But that timeline is preliminary, agency officials stressed.
“Teams continue to debug and refine the test plan to incorporate lessons learned during previous runs and activities,” officials from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program said said yesterday via Twitter (opens in new tab).
Artemis 1, the very first flight of the SLS and NASA Artemis program of lunar exploration will send an unmanned Orion capsule on a roughly one-month mission around the moon. The mission is expected to launch in June or thereabouts; NASA will not set a target date until the wet dress rehearsal is over and teams have analyzed the resulting data.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts on a similar lunar orbit in 2024, and 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 extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).