Big Orange Rocket finally makes its debut

Nov 22, 2022 | NASA, Rockets, Spacecraft

Big Orange Rocket finally makes its debut
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft atop launches the agency’s Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16 from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Brandon Hancock

NASA finally launched the first SLS rocket from launchpad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

To say this rocket has had troubles would be understating it a bit. But as large rockets go, 12 years and only $23 billion dollars is an amazing achievement.

We would be here all week if I talked about all the problems, but to sum up, the whole reason it existed to reuse shuttle parts and workforce turned out to be a lot more complicated than the politicians who told NASA to do it originally thought. It was delayed six years past its legislated launch date.

It finally made it fully stacked to the pad earlier this year and had two launch attempts scrubbed due to leaks. Then it had to flee back to the safety of the VAB because of Hurricane Ian, but NASA left it out for Hurricane Nicole. Don’t worry, though, the second hurricane didn’t damage it too much. 

After all of these problems what happened on the third attempt? Drama. Basically, three dudes, or rather two dudes and a supervisor so they wouldn’t do anything unsafe, had to go out to the pad next to the 97-meter tall, 2.6-kiloton bomb of a rocket and wrench on some bolts to fix a valve.

The ‘red team’, as they were called, did their work quickly and successfully. The valve resumed doing its job. What was the next problem you ask?

Some network switch connected to a tracking radar broke so a guy in an office somewhere near the Cape had to take a spare out of storage and hook it up. This took longer than fixing the valve next to the rocket. 

The SLS rocket carrying the Artemis 1 Orion finally lifted off only 43 minutes behind schedule at 0647 UTC on November 16. The launch was completely successful. 

The only problem was the CubeSats. A couple of them phoned home successfully, but many did not, or did briefly and not for very long, and are having problems. We don’t have time to go into detail about all their missions, you can read about them from a link in our show notes. 

As expected prior to launch, five are working perfectly and the other five are having problems. This correlates to the number of CubeSats that were able to be recharged while the SLS was in the VAB sheltering from Hurricane Ian.

ArgoMoon, BioSentinel, CuSP, EQUULEUS, LunaH-Map, and Lunar IceCube are all fully operational. 

LunIR is having problems with its radio and OMOTENASHI is returning signals intermittently because it’s tumbling.

NEAScout and Team MILES have not transmitted any signals at all. NEAScout and OMOTENASHI not working are both major bummers as those were the two satellites I was most interested in.

Overall, minor disappointments for the mission as a whole but major blows to the teams that worked for years on these spacecraft only to have them fail for reasons out of their control. Orion will return after 37 days in space to the Pacific Ocean.

We’ll have to wait three years for the next SLS. But that one will have people on it. And there might only be four total.

Read more about the launch here. Read more about the CubeSats on Artemis 1 here and here

1 Comment

  1. Jeff Wright

    It survived tornadoes at MAF, withstood a hurricane—-and various Internet windbags—and overperformed.

    SuperHeavy, on the other hand:

    Oh, and there was this:

    Francisco Cabada—say his name.


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