NASA sets launch date for Artemis I

On July 20, NASA held a teleconference to discuss the next steps for the Artemis I mission with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA has set three ‘placeholder’ launch dates — Aug. 29, Sept. 2 and Sept. 5. The flight, an uncrewed test flight around the Moon, will serve as a keystone test for future human missions.

Through Artemis missions, NASA aims to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone to send astronauts to Mars.

The dates, however, are subject to change depending on repairs made to the Space Launch System rocket and other systems following a “wet dress rehearsal” on June 20.

“It’s not an agency commitment,” Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator of exploration systems, said of the announced launch dates.

These dates are, however what “the team is working to, and has a plan for,” Free added. “But [we have] a lot of work left of things that we’ll have to do, and probably learn from, including close-outs.

“We’ll make the agency commitment after a flight readiness review just a little over a week before launch. We’re going to be careful,” Free said.

The three launch dates offer different mission durations and timings.

The Aug. 29 opportunity will open at 8:33 a.m. and last two hours. If Artemis I launches successfully, the Orion capsule will return to Earth on Oct. 10 after 42 days in space.

The Sept. 2 date also offers a two-hour launch window that opens at 12:48 p.m. Artemis I would return 39 days later on Oct. 11. And the Sept. 5 launch window opens at 5:12 p.m., for a 1.5 hour window, with Artemis returning to Earth on Oct. 17.

Just in case, NASA has identified several dates through mid-2023 in case weather or technical issues delay the launch.

The teleconference came on the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

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