We’ve been following the progress of the Artemis mission, and we’re excited that weather permitting, the Artemis rocket should blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Bank Holiday Monday, 29th August 2022.
Over the last few days, the massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has trundled out from its massive hanger and taken up position on the launch pad. The 322 feet tall “super heavy-lift rocket” will be powered by four RS-25 liquid propellant engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters. The Orion spacecraft perched on top consists of a crew module, service module and service panels. In total, the rocket weighs an eye-watering 5.74 million lbs. (2,603 t) when fully fuelled.
The vehicle responsibly for taking this massive rocket safely from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB ) is NASA’s crawler-transporter 2. This carried the Artemis I rocket and Orion spacecraft on its mobile launcher to Launch Complex 39B along a crawler trackway.
Keeping on track
It’s a surprisingly long journey from the VAB to the launch pad, approximately 4 miles, and according to NASA:
“The crawler-transporter will move slowly during the trek to the pad with a top cruising speed of .82 mph. The journey is expected to take between six and 12 hours.”
To access the Artemis rocket, it drove into the VAB, and slid under the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft placed on the mobile launcher.
It’s not new tech by any means: the crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2) is more than 50 years old and has been modified to accommodate the Artemis rocket requirements. Weighing in at 6.6-million-pounds, and with a top speed of 1 mile per hour loaded, and a zippy two miles an hour unloaded, the transporter has clocked up an impressive 2,335 miles!
“An expanded strain and temperature system, a new condition monitoring system, two new AC generators, redesigned and uprated parking and service brakes, control system modifications … and a new paint job.”
The crawler can also vary its height from approximately 20 feet to 26 feet, “Based on the position of the jacking, equalization and leveling cylinders.”
Needless to say, we’re convinced that load cells must play a crucial part in ensuring the load doesn’t exceed the 18million pound capacity of the crawler, and that the load is evenly distributed and level. The last thing anyone wants is for the Artemis rocket to wobble about on that four-mile journey!
If you want to fly the mission, this NASA video takes you on the entire mission in just 10 minutes.