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NASA Unveils Its Massive Moon Rocket

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 The Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1 stands 322 feet (98 meters) tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty but less than the 363 foot Saturn V rockets that propelled the Apollo expeditions to the Moon.

Despite this, it will have a maximum thrust of 8.8 million pounds (39.1 meganewtons), which is 15% greater than the Saturn V, making it the world's most powerful rocket when it launches.
On a teleconference with reporters this week, Tom Whitmeyer, assistant administrator for exploration systems development, said, "This is a flagship rocket you're about to witness, it's a symbol of our country."
NASA Inspector General Paul Martin told Congress earlier this month that the first four Artemis missions will cost an estimated $4.1 billion per launch.

Engineers will have around two weeks of tests before the "wet dress rehearsal," the final prelaunch test, after it arrives at the famous launch pad, where 53 Space Shuttles have taken off.
The SLS crew will load almost 700,000 gallons (3.2 million liters) of cryogenic propellants into the rocket on April 3 and practice every phase of the launch countdown, switching off the engines less than ten seconds before blastoff.

The propellant will then be emptied to show how a launch attempt may be safely aborted.
Artemis-1, an uncrewed lunar mission that will be the maiden flight for SLS and Orion, is expected to launch in May.
SLS will first send Orion into a low Earth orbit, then undertake a trans-lunar injection using its upper stage.

This maneuver is required to take Orion 280,000 miles beyond Earth and 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, which is the furthest any spacecraft capable of transporting people has traveled.
Orion will launch ten CubeSats, or small satellites, during its three-week mission to collect data on the deep space environment.
It will go around the far side of the Moon, using thrusters provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) service module, before returning to Earth to test its heat shield against the atmosphere.
Splashdown takes place off the coast of California in the Pacific Ocean.

The first crewed test, Artemis-2, will fly around the Moon but not land, while Artemis-3, scheduled for no sooner than 2025, would see the first woman and first person of color touch down on the lunar south pole.
NASA plans to utilize the Moon as a test bed for technology needed for a Mars trip in the 2030s, utilizing a Block 2 SLS.

SLS is a "ultra heavy lift exploration class spacecraft," according to NASA. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, which is smaller, is presently the only super heavy rocket in operation.

Elon Musk's business is also working on its own deep space rocket, the totally reusable Starship, which he says will be ready for an orbital test later this year.

While SLS is meant to travel directly to its destinations, SpaceX envisions launching a Starship into orbit, then refueling it with another Starship to continue its mission, extending range and cargo.

A variant of Starship has also been contracted by NASA as a lunar descent vehicle for Artemis.

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