NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket solidified itself as the world’s most powerful rocket when it launched to orbit for the Artemis 1 mission on November 16. The 322-feet-tall non-reusable launch vehicle lifted off with 8.8 million pounds (roughly 4 million kg) of peak thrust to send the Orion spacecraft where no human-rated capsule has ever gone.
While the camera microphones near the launch site were enough to give us an idea about the SLS rocket’s strength, NASA recently shared details revealing how the mammoth launch vehicle impacted its surrounding areas. During a press conference on November 22, NASA officials revealed that the violent shaking generated by the twin boosters of the rocket blew the doors off the mobile launch tower’s elevators. The mobile launch tower is the structure SLS was attached to before launch.
(Damaged elevator doors; Image: NASA)
Acknowledging the damage, NASA is now planning to prepare for the damage SLS might inflict in future launches for upcoming Artemis missions. “The elevator system is not functioning right now,” Mike Sarafin, manager of NASA’s Artemis missions said during the conference. “The pressure basically blew the doors off our elevators. Right now, the elevators are inoperable, and we need to get those back into service,” Sarafin added.
Sarafin revealed that the shock wave produced during the launch inflicted damage in “a couple of areas” adding that it showed that the environment would not be the ‘friendliest” when the world’s most powerful rocket lifts off. He, however, said that all the problems are fixable and that the elevator doors will be completely mended by Artemis 2, which would be a crewed launch targeted no earlier than 2024. Despite this, NASA is happy with the flawless launch and progress of this mission as inspections have revealed that the Orion, currently around the Moon, is exceeding expectations.
Artemis 1 enters day seven
The Artemis 1 mission has entered its seventh day and the Orion spacecraft has completed one flyby past the Moon. The flyby was carried out on November 21 and the spacecraft got as close as 130 km from the lunar surface. NASA would conduct another powered flyby in the next few days to send Orion into the distant retrograde orbit (DRO) around the Moon. The DRO is the path around the Moon which is named ‘distant’ owing to its high altitude from the lunar surface and ‘retrograde’ because a spacecraft in this path travels around the Moon in a direction opposite to the Moon’s orbit around the Earth.
Estimated to last 25 days, 11 hours and 32 minutes, Artemis 1 will end with Orion’s splashdown into the Pacific Ocean on December 11.