HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Officials at Marshall Space Flight Center were optimistic about the chance for the uncrewed Artemis I mission to fly later this year. The Space Launch System was designed and developed in Huntsville with many people across North Alabama playing a part in its creation.
News 19 was able to hear from some of the project leaders who helped create the SLS and those who have projects that will be launched on the first mission, including a new propulsion system.
Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer and SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt both spoke about how the Artemis program, designed to take the first woman and person of color to the Moon, is progressing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Singer explained the SLS has finished the last of the tests inside the Vehicle Assembly Building and would be making its way to Launch Complex 39B on March 17 for a series of final tests known as a wet dress rehearsal. Artemis I will take a full day to travel the four miles to the launch pad.
Honeycutt told News 19, “We’re going through a series of tests. A lot of the things we have done leading up to today are those big integrative tests. We will be gathering data on the roll from the VAB to the launch pad.”
After its arrival at the pad, engineers will wait two weeks before the wet dress rehearsal which will take the rocket through all of the procedures on launch day except the actual firing of the engines. While they crunch the data from that test Artemis I will be rolled back to the VAB to await a launch date.
“At the end of the day, this big mega moon rocket has got to go fly,” Honeycutt said about the amount of testing that is being done. “We’ve done everything that we can do here on the ground on the test stand. At the of the day, you get to combine all of those test environments in this uncrewed test flight.”
He emphasized the amount that his team has learned from all of the tests and said because of that he is not expecting any big surprises in the next stages of testing.
“When I drive by the Space and Rocket Center I see that Saturn V rocket and I understand what a big accomplishment that was. It’s really a big deal and I understand the historic value to Artemis I and the foundation that we’re laying for our steps back to the Moon and to Mars,” Honeycutt said.
Singer said she is confident in what the upcoming tests will show and told News 19 that everyone at Marshall is already looking towards Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 which is scheduled to take a crew back to the surface of the Moon.
When it comes to the future of the Artemis program Singer said, “The next steps are so bright.”