[UPDATE: More testing and pictures] Orion mass simulator installed atop Artemis I SLS

NASA teams are racing towards the first launch of the SLS rocket at Kennedy Space Center. The final pieces needed for sull stack testing were installed a few days ago, the Orion stage adapter structural test article, and Orion Mass Simulator. The full stack of SLS is expected to roll out to LC-39B for further testing and a Wet Dress Rehearsal.

There is a mad rush to get SLS ready to launch before the year is out. Teams have been working night and day to clear their ‘To-Do’ lists. NASA is working towards a launch date sometime this year, and we hear that the schedule is currently holding to the date. This fast pace is why media have not been inside the VAB to see SLS. In new photos, we can see this stage adapter test article and mass sim installed atop of SLS. While this metal tube doesn’t look like Orion, it does perform the needed functions for the next set of tests.

The Orion stage adapter structural test article and Orion Mass Simulator atop SLS | Image Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

SLS Testing and Wet Dress Rehearsal

With these items now installed, NASA can conduct vibration tests. These tests will provide data to teams so they can more properly model the vibrations and harmonics the vehicle will experience in flight. A test of the mobile launcher umbilical arms will be conducted as well. Following these tests, SLS will roll out to LC-39B to conduct a wet dress rehearsal (WDR). We expect to see the Orion Mass Sim roll out with SLS for the WDR, but that could change. This will be a full shakedown of the SLS systems. The WDR will allow launch teams to conduct a simulated launch countdown with the vehicle. These teams have practiced many times leading up to the launch.

With the vehicle at LC-39B, teams can also see how the vehicle sways and interacts with the wind. This information will be crucial for the actual liftoff. Once all the testing is done, SLS will roll back to the VAB. There, the Orion Mass Sim and Test Article will be removed. This will clear the way for the integration of the actual Orion spacecraft with its launch abort system and European Service Module. Then it’s only a matter of time before the final rollout and launch of Artemis 1.

[TESTING UPDATE] NASA completed the Umbilical Release and Retract Test (URRT) over the weekend. Most of the work platforms had been retracted ahead of this test, allowing a nearly unobstructed view of SLS. We currently expect to see the Wet Dress Rehearsal occur sometime around November 22nd.

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