NASA will conduct its fourth attempt to launch the Space Launch System (SLS), the world’s most powerful rocket, on November 16, 2022.
The official countdown to the launch began on November 14, while the agency continues to make its final preparations before the planned attempt.
“The team here at KSC [Kennedy Space Center – AeroTime], the engineering team for all the vehicles continues to work, to press towards Wednesday’s launch, continues to work things post-hurricane, continues to work normal prep stuff,” James Free, Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development said in a press call on November 13.
The maiden launch of the SLS, which is set to carry the Orion spacecraft around the Moon, has been delayed since August 2022.
The mission, Artemis I, is expected to be the first in a series of launches culminating in a manned Moon landing.
On August 29, 2022, the SLS was on its pad at Kennedy Space Center when the countdown was stopped just 40 minutes before the planned launch. The issue was identified as a faulty temperature sensor in one of the rocket’s engines, prompting NASA to delay the launch to September 3.
However, the launch was delayed an hour before the lift-off on September 3 due to a leak in the fuel transferring system.
The rocket was then expected to launch in late September, but the launch was scrapped due to an incoming storm. The SLS has had to face Hurricane Ian and the more recent Hurricane Nicola while on the launchpad, sustaining what NASA has called “minor damage”.
The latest delays are just one of the issues that have plagued the development of the SLS. Originally set to launch before 2017, the rocket was intended to be a cheap and easy interim solution that would reuse parts from previous projects, such as the long-retired Space Shuttle.
However, its production was beset with scandals and cost overruns, and ended up costing significantly more than its original estimates and being delayed more than a dozen times.
Despite heavy criticism from industry experts, the SLS is still on its way to becoming the most powerful rocket ever, with its engines generating more power than the previous record holder, the Saturn V.