NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, has successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Following the successful launch, the agency’s Orion spacecraft is on its way to the Moon as part of the Artemis program.
The 32-story Space Launch System (SLS) rocket proceeded to carry the uncrewed Orion spacecraft into orbit. Powered by its ESA-designed service module, Orion is planned to travel approximately 40,000 miles (64,374 km) beyond the Moon and return to Earth over the course of 25.5 days.
Known as Artemis I, the mission is a critical part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which the agency explores for the benefit of humanity. It’s an important test for the agency before flying astronauts on the Artemis II mission.
After reaching its initial orbit, Orion deployed its solar arrays, and engineers began performing checkouts of the spacecraft’s systems. About 1.5 hours into the flight, the rocket’s upper stage engine successfully fired for approximately 18 minutes to give Orion the big push needed to send it out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon. Orion has separated from its upper stage and is on its outbound coast to the Moon powered by its service module, which is the propulsive powerhouse provided by ESA.
“What an incredible sight to see NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft launch together for the first time. This uncrewed flight test will push Orion to the limits in the rigors of deep space, helping us prepare for human exploration on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.