NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, after being rolled out to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Artemis I mission is the first integrated test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and supporting ground systems. Launch of the uncrewed flight test is targeted for no earlier than Aug. 29. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

‘Incandescently expensive’ SLS scrubs first attempt at lunar test flight

NASA’s Artemis and its ride to a 42-day mission in lunar orbit are, to say the least, a polarizing project.

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This post appeared as part of our Three Points Newsletter on August 29, 2022

The Space Launch System, NASA’s largest-ever rocket for human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit, made an unsuccessful attempt to get the uncrewed Orion capsule and the Artemis 1 mission off the ground on August 29. The first launch window of the incredibly complex test flight was stymied by a bleed stage that wasn’t able to sufficiently cool the core stage’s number three RS-25 main engine aboard the new SLS rocket. That finicky main engine is repurposed for SLS and flew on six Space Shuttle flights going all the way back to December 2006. NASA will try again no earlier than September 2.

Perhaps one of SpaceX’s biggest contributions to a shift in the public expectation around space flight is that rockets are now reusable. Many news packages on SLS noted that the rocket isn’t reusable, once the norm in spaceflight that only shifted for the first time in 2015. For the single-use SLS, NASA’s RS-25s are now expendable motors.

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