This afternoon, NASA will begin the very slow launch of its all-new rocket, the Space Launch System, to move the fully-stacked craft to the primary launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s an important moment for the rocket, which has been in development for the past decade, but after many delays and hiccups, a launch vehicle may finally be on the horizon.
The Space Launch System, or SLS, has spent much of the past year hiding in the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, a massive warehouse structure at KSC used to house and integrate giant rockets. There, the car’s parts have been stacked together and tested, getting everything ready for the moment.
Now, the craft will embark on an 11-hour journey through four miles of KSC terrain on top of NASA’s Crawler Carrier, a tank-like platform with massive, tracked wheels that will slowly roll the rocket along the ground. At the head of the crawler there is a specially modified mobile launcher from which the SLS will launch in the future. It includes a platform and support tower approximately 355 feet high. The final destination for the SLS is the main launch pad, LC-39B, a historic spot once used to launch the Apollo moon orbit missions and space shuttle flights.
If all goes well today, NASA plans to hold what’s known as a wetsuit rehearsal in early April, a major event where engineers will simulate actual launch day, fill the car with fuel and countdown close to the moment of launch. NASA will then return the SLS to VAB and perform more tests before rolling out the rocket again for its first launch sometime this summer.
Although the SLS still has ways to go before launch, this is the first time a fully stocked car has seen the light of day. Don’t expect a lot of theatrical performances. The crawler carrier is moving at about a mph, so the SLS will take its time transiting through the KSC.
How do I watch?
NASA plans to stream the SLS on its dedicated channel, NASA TV, with coverage starting at 5 p.m. ET. You can see the summary at NASA website or on Youtube.
What time is rollout?
SLS will begin rolling out the VAB shortly after 5 p.m. ET on March 17th.
Scheduled start time: New York: 5 p.m. / San Francisco: 2 p.m. / London: 9 p.m. / Berlin: 10 p.m. / Moscow: 12 a.m. / New Delhi: 2:30 a.m. / Beijing: 5 a.m. / Tokyo: 4 a.m. / Melbourne: 8 a.m.
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