NASA hopes to conduct a critical hot fire test of the core stage of its Space Launch System rocket at Stennis Space Center later this month. The test is the last major step in developing NASA’s new powerful rocket to the Moon. If all goes well this month, NASA will be on track to conduct its first lunar flyby mission called Artemis I with SLS and the Orion spacecraft as early as November 2021.

It’s too early to know if NASA will have to kick back the hot fire test into next year, but a scheduled wet dress rehearsal that started over the weekend was paused on Monday after initial propellant loading to the rocket. NASA says the team at Stennis Space Center will now study data collected during initial propellant loading and adjust the fueling process before completing the wet dress rehearsal.

NASA successfully powered up the core stage at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi on Dec. 5 and started the process to load propellant for the first time into the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage Dec. 7. To complete this wet dress rehearsal exercise, cryogenic propellants are transferred from facility barge systems to the core stage. To test propellant loading procedures, engineers successfully loaded a small amount of liquid hydrogen into the core stage without any issues. Then, they paused propellant loading to review data and adjust procedures before loading additional propellant.

NASA hopes to “resume the wet dress rehearsal test in the coming days,” according to an update published by the agency. It stresses that the Green Run Test is designed to catch changes needed in the process before actually conducting a mission with the brand new rocket hardware. NASA says both the B-2 Test Stand in South Mississippi and the SLS core stage remain in good shape.

Catch up on the latest Space Launch System Green Run Test coverage:

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