Key Testing of NASA’s new SLS Megarocket Postponed due to Covid-19

Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic has affected almost everything including NASA’s upcoming programs. Though NASA is reopening its center slowly, it’s ensured that the first flight of its upcoming Artemis program won’t launch till late 2021.

NASA’s Stennis Space Center closed since 20th March

This week, NASA’s Advisory Council on Human Exploration and Operations conducted a meeting on 14th May in which they provided an update on the upcoming Artemis 1 mission. According to them, NASA had been planning the first flight of the massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in the space during the mid-to-late 2021.

NASA's new SLS Megarocket Postponed due to Covid-19
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Image: © NASA/SSC

Under the SLS rocket launch program, NASA intended to launch the Orion capsule on an uncrewed journey around the moon. But due to the Coronavirus pandemic, they might have to postpone their programs since their Stennis Space Center in Mississippi is closed since 24th March, rocket launching for some time since it would be difficult to perform the major tests on the rocket before launching it.

They had to take this decision under the measures to slow the spread of the pandemic. For this reason, they might have to postpone the Artemis 1 mission until the end of next year. According to an official, the SLS rocket needs to go through green-run tests to ensure it’s ready for flight. They were in the core stage of launching the rocket into space when they had to stop all their operations just 10 days before accomplishing all the necessary integration activities.

For the last 6-7 weeks, they had conducted only the most essential maintenance tasks on the site under the Covid-19 protection measures and shut down all other activities to ensure the safety of the workers and the engineers.

Although NASA is reopening its centers now, getting their engineers and workers back to work at the center would be a slow and careful process. Due to which the major SLS tests could be delayed.

Conclusion:

The Artemis 1 rocket arrived at the center in the beginning of the year. Before the outbreak of Coronavirus, NASA intended to conduct the hot-fire test on the rocket in August and deliver it to the Kennedy Space Center in October. In this test, the full core stage and the engines of the rocket needed to fire for eight minutes, as they would do during the real launch. But now, this timeline would be delayed by at least three months.

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