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NASA transports giant launchers on crawler wheels

The Mobile Launch Pad (MLP) exits the vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center on a 2,700 ton tracked vehicle.

The 116-meter-high launch pad will carry the Space Launch System (SLS) missile and Orion spacecraft on the upcoming Artemis 1 Moon mission, which is expected to take off later next year. To prepare the launch pad for this mission, engineers moved it to the 39B Launch Complex for a series of tests.

MLP began its 6.8 km journey to the launch complex after midnight on November 20 and arrived 10 hours later. This trip is an important part of the launch preparation process, helping the engineering team prepare for the SLS and Orion launch review and event. MLP will hold Complex 39B for two weeks, going through various activities before launch. First, engineers will thoroughly clean the MLP from top to bottom, removing any remaining debris from the manufacturing process. This will reduce the risk in SLS / Orion when launching. Some debris must use the high pressure nozzle available in the pitcher to be removed. The engineering team will operate the fire suppression system with nozzles on each floor. As a result, they can reach all corners to ensure that there is no debris left that could destroy missiles or spacecraft on launch day. This activity also allows engineers to reconfirm the MLP fire extinguishing system.

According to Lanham, the mobile launcher was designed entirely for NASA’s Constellation program, and then a team of engineers modified the machine to support SLS. As part of the Artemis 1 Moon discovery program, NASA will send the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024. But before that, the agency must fully test rockets and spacecraft. . With the Artemis 1 mission, the Orion unmanned spacecraft will orbit the Moon by the end of 2021.

Currently, NASA is testing systems on the first model SLS missile. In November 2020, NASA will conduct a fire test with the four RS-125 engines of the SLS at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, one of the last milestones ahead of next year’s launch. Flight Artemis 1 will test the performance of many key systems on both vehicles, including a heat shield for the astronaut’s cabin.

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