The Orion spacecraft was successfully secured atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket shortly before midnight on October 21 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the US space agency said in a statement.
NASA Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is now home to a 322-foot high stack. After the mega-Moon rocket has been stacked, the next step is an integrated series of tests ending in February 2022, the agency said.
“With the stacking and integration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft complete, we’re getting closer and closer to embarking on a new era of human deep space exploration,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in the statement.
“Thanks to the team’s hard work designing, manufacturing, testing, and now completing assembly of NASA’s new rocket and spacecraft, we’re in the home stretch of preparations for the first launch on the Artemis I mission, paving the way to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond for many years to come,” he added.
A future Artemis I mission will pave the way for a crewed flight test before NASA establishes a regular schedule of more complex missions with astronauts on the Moon and around it under Artemis.
As a result of NASA’s Artemis missions, for the first time a woman and a person of color will have landed on the Moon’s surface, paving the way to a long-term lunar presence and serving as a stepping stone to Mars.
During each test campaign, the rocket and spacecraft will be evaluated as an integrated system for the first time, building upon each other and culminating in a simulation at the launch pad.
In addition to the verification of the systems, the 322-foot rocket will return to the VAB for final inspections and checkouts, including the second part of the flight termination system test, before returning to the launch pad.
The first of a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will lay the groundwork for humans to explore deep space and show our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond before the crewed flight of Artemis II.