Skip to main content

NASA’s mega moon rocket looks tiny in this launchpad shot

NASA is targeting November 14 for the maiden launch of its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The rocket will power an uncrewed Orion spacecraft toward the moon where it’ll come within 62 miles of the the lunar surface before returning to Earth for a splashdown landing on December 9.

The mission, Artemis I, is a test run for the Artemis II mission that will take the same route, but with astronauts aboard. After that, Artemis III will put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. Scheduled for no earlier than 2025, Artemis III will also mark the first crewed moon landing since the final Apollo mission in 1972.

Airbus Space, which built part of the Orion spacecraft, on Monday shared an awesome aerial image showing the SLS rocket on the launchpad ahead of next week’s maiden flight.

Guess who's back… back again! 😉#PléiadesNeo 🛰 spotted @NASA_SLS 🚀 back on the launch pad!
With @NASA_Orion onboard, last preparations are ongoing before launch on 14th November. 📅#OrionESM #Artemis

— Airbus Space (@AirbusSpace) November 7, 2022

The rocket looks tiny in the photo, though stand at its base and you’ll quickly appreciate the full 98-meter height of this mighty space vehicle.

And with 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch — that’s 13% more power than the Space Shuttle and 15% more than the Saturn V rocket that powered the Apollo missions — the liftoff promises to be a spectacular sight, one that’s set to attract thousands of people to Florida’s Space Coast, with many more watching online.

The SLS rocket arrived at the launchpad on Friday after spending the whole of October inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) about four miles away. Before that, it had been on the launchpad for several launches that were disrupted by technical issues. The decision to move the SLS to the VAB was prompted by the approach of Hurricane Ian toward the end of September. While inside the VAB, NASA engineers were able to perform work on correcting the earlier issues and readying the rocket for next week’s launch.

The mission, when it finally gets underway, will usher in a new era of space exploration that could eventually see a permanent moon base set up for human habitation, with the first crewed missions to Mars also part of the plan.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Watch highlights of SpaceX’s 60th rocket launch of 2022
Falcon 9 launches SXM-8 to orbit on SpaceX’s 125th successful mission, Sunday, Jun 6 2021.

SpaceX launched its 60th mission of the year on Wednesday, and it’s not done yet.

The California-based commercial spaceflight company launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 54 Starlink internet satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral in Florida at 4:34 a.m. ET on Wednesday, December 28.

Read more
NASA shares Orion moon video on anniversary of iconic Earthrise image
As Earthrise as seen from the Orion spacecraft in 2022.

NASA has shared some incredible footage showing Earth rising behind the moon.

It was captured on November 28 as Orion orbited our nearest neighbor during the Artemis I test mission, which saw the first flight of NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Read more
Watch NASA’s video celebrating 2022’s amazing achievements
The Pillars of Creation, imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope

It’s been an extraordinary year for NASA and its international partners.

To celebrate, the U.S. space agency has released a video featuring some of the highlights from the last 12 months, together with a rousing speech delivered by NASA chief Bill Nelson at an event at Rice University in Houston, Texas, earlier this year.

Read more