NASA administrator says first SLS launch unlikely until 2022

Recently a NASA administrator said there was no firm first launch date for the Space Launch System (SLS). However, the administrator said that NASA would soon set a target launch date, but that target would likely be early 2022. Another NASA administrator named Bob Cabana recently participated in the Maryland Space Business Roundtable webinar that was held on September 30.

At that event, Cabana talked about the launch of Artemis I. The administrator said no firm launch date had been decided on but suggested it was unlikely to happen before the end of 2021. Cabana said that NASA would hopefully have a firm launch date after next week and that it was expected to be early next year. NASA had hoped Artemis I might lunch before the end of the year.

Previously NASA administrator Bill Nelson had told reporters on September 21 that Artemis I would launch at the end of this year or in the first part of next year. Cabana did say that NASA had recently completed "modal testing" the SLS rocket, which involves subjecting the vehicle to vibrations to determine natural frequencies.

The next major milestone for the SLS project will be attaching the Orion spacecraft. Orion will be transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center on October 13. Once Orion is fitted to the top of the SLS rocket, it will be moved to Launch Complex 39B for its wet dress rehearsal, where it's filled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

That dress rehearsal will see a launch countdown commence but stop before the main engines would ignite. After that successful test, the rocket will be returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building for any remaining work before returning to the launchpad for its first launch.