[Update: Test Window Announced] Artemis I booster stacking is now complete; Awaits first Core Stage

Over the last few years, the pieces of NASA’s Artemis I mission have slowly been making their way to Kennedy Space Center for final checkouts and stacking. For the past couple of months, NASA has been preparing to receive the final parts of the rocket with the first step towards a fully stacked SLS finishing the other day.

The first part of the SLS rocket that is stacked onto the mobile launch platform are the two Solid Rocket Boosters. This is because they provide the structural support for the rest of the rocket to be attached to. Booster stacking started in November of last year where the two aft segments were lowered and secured to the platform inside NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

Each booster is made up of 5 segments, these segments are built by Northrop Grumman and are derived from the Space Shuttle’s SRBs, the only difference is the Shuttle only had 4 segments per booster. These segments were transported by train from Utah where they were manufactured and arrived at Kennedy Space Center last year.

Artemis I SLS boosters stacked inside NASA’s VAB. Credit: NASA

When the first segments were stacked on top of each other that gave the teams at NASA a 1-year countdown before the seals between the segments would need to be inspected. Currently, most of the components that have already arrived at the cape to be stacked but NASA is still in the final stages of certifying the Core Stage to fly.

New Core Stage Hot Fire Date

After the aborted test earlier this year, NASA announced they will be attempting the second hot fire of the Core Stage’s 4 RS-25 engines on Tuesday, March 18th. This test has the goal to certify the stage for flight and send it to Kennedy Space Center for final checkouts and stacking. The schedule is tight for getting the Artemis I mission to fly but it is looking more and more likely we might see SLS finally fly with in the next year.

NASA teams are targeting a 2-hour test window that will open up at 3 PM EDT (2 PM Local) and will end at 5 PM EDT (4 PM Local). NASA plans to begin coverage of the hot fire 30 minutes prior to the test beginning which would be no earlier than 2:30 PM EDT. This could change depending on when teams determine is the best time to conduct the test.

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