NASA’s powerful SLS (Space Launch System) moon rocket blew through the launch tower elevator doors during its maiden liftoff last week. The damage remains minor, but this data will be taken into account to prevent such events from happening again.
On November 16, nearly 4,000 tonnes of thrust enabled the SLS – the world’s most powerful rocket to ever successfully launch – to aim for the Moon. Although the mission is currently proceeding as planned, even exceeding NASA’s expectations, ground crews have still recorded several damages caused by the launch.
As with the space shuttles, the Artemis 1 crews used heavy jets of water to limit the amount of damage to the launch deck. Even so, the paint on the launch tower was chipped somewhat due to the force of the liftoff.
In addition, the elevators allowing the maintenance of the tower suffered significant damage. One of the frames is completely twisted, while the two doors have been completely torn off. The elevators have since become unusable, but they remain repairable.
Everything is going better than expected
Apart from these few technical problems, the mission seems to be going wonderfully. The head of Artemis I, Mike Sarafin, indeed spoke of “amazing results“.
Orion’s solar panels indeed provide more than 20% more energy than expected, while all of the ship’s thrusters, from its main engine to its small reaction control system, work perfectly. A visual inspection of the vehicle, from cameras mounted on the solar panels, also revealed no micrometeoroid debris issues.
The Orion ship operated its first major maneuver on Monday morning. This, which essentially aimed to accelerate the speed of the spacecraft by just over 900 km / h, took place this Monday noon, bringing the spacecraft within 130 kilometers of the surface of the Moon.
This first burn was essentially intended to prepare for the insertion of the vessel into its retrograde orbit on November 25. During this second major maneuver, Orion’s main engine will burn for just over a minute. Then, the teams will take care of testing the various systems on board, with the aim of preparing Artemis 2.
The vehicle will pass by the Moon again on December 5 before once again burning out its engines to return home. The return to Earth is scheduled for December 11 off the coast of California.