NASA’s Next Generation Rocket Returns to Assembly Building

after a successful test of its fuel capabilities last month, NASA’s next-generation rocket, the Space Launch System, will return today to its home in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket, intended to eventually bring astronauts back to the moon under the Artemis program, could launch for the first time on the unmanned Artemis I mission in late August or early September.

For the tank test, called the wet dress rehearsal, the rocket was wheeled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building or VAB and driven to launch pad 39B, where it has been standing for the past few weeks. Now the rocket goes back inside for final adjustments. But moving the 212-foot rocket the four miles from the launch pad to the building is no easy task, requiring the use of a huge crawler and lasts several hours.

Returning the rocket to the building was originally planned for yesterday, Friday, July 1, but was postponed for a day by means of the path the crawler travels along, called the crawlerway, is uneven. “The inclined path must be exactly level with an even distribution of the rocks that make up the crawl space to support the payload of the mobile launcher and rocket it will carry,” NASA explained, so teams spent yesterday leveling the ramp so it can be used by the crawler.

NASA announced that the rocket and crawler left the launch pad this morning, Saturday, July 2, at 4:12 a.m. ET, and that it was scheduled to arrive at the building later this morning. You can watch the rocket’s progress using the video embedded above or by going to the Kennedy Space Center newsroom Youtube Channel

“Once inside the VAB, the teams will replace a seal on the tail service mast’s umbilical cord quick connect to address a liquid hydrogen leak detected during wet dress rehearsal, along with planned forward work as the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft are ready for launch,” NASA wrote.

After the wet dress rehearsal, the hope was that the rocket could launch on its first mission already in August† This goal was confirmed to Ars Technica this week, with NASA’s senior exploration officer Jim Free telling Ars they’re working on an Aug. 23 to Sept. 6 launch window for the Artemis I launch.

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