NASA has announced that it was now targeting to launch the Artemis 1, an uncrewed mission that will return the American space agency to the Moon after decades, in February 2022. The rescheduling of the launch has delayed the mission by at least three months as the ambitious programme was initially set to take off in November. The delay is mainly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Ida, and other factors. The launch period for Artemis 1 now runs from February 12 to February 27, said the agency in an update.
Officials from NASA said the Artemis 1 has entered its final phase of launch preparations. The spacecraft was moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center on October 19.
The space agency said they have wrapped up the installation of Orion spacecraft on top of the Space Launch System, which stands over 320 feet (98 metres) tall, reported SpaceNews. The briefing was the first formal confirmation by NASA that Artemis 1 will not launch this year.
The Artemis 1 spacecraft will undergo tests inside the assembly building and then be sent to the launch complex. A wet dress rehearsal, where the core stage is fueled and goes through a practice countdown, is likely in January.
“We're looking at a period of time within February,” said Tom Whitmeyer, NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development. “We're very excited. We think this is really tremendous progress.”
The first opportunity for launch will be available on February 12 and will continue till February 27. More such opportunities will run from March 12 to March 27 and from April 8 to April 23.
The Orion spacecraft will launch from the SLS rocket to reach the Moon. The mission is expected to last for a few weeks and then the Orion will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
NASA's initial plan was to send Artemis 1, a test flight, by the end of this year and then land astronauts by 2024 on Artemis 3.