NASA is finally rolling its hulking Space Launch System (SLS) rocket out to the launch pad.
The agency’s (equally-hulking) Crawler-Transporter 2 (CT-2) will ferry the 5.75-million-pound rocket and Orion crew capsule from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Complex 39B at 5 p.m. EDT. You can catch a livestream of the 11-hour journey in the video at the top of this story.
The rocket is traveling to the launchpad in preparation for a wet dress rehearsal—where NASA will fill it with fuel and propellant and let ’er rip—which is currently set for April 3. After the wet dress rehearsal is complete in two weeks, NASA will move the rocket back to VAB for subsequent testing and tweaking.
NASA built the SLS for the Artemis program, which will carry the next astronauts to the lunar surface in the coming years. (Each launch is expected to cost almost $2 billion.) The first leg of the Artemis mission—an uncrewed, 25-day jaunt around the moon—is scheduled to launch sometime this spring. The latest estimate, per a February press conference, suggests NASA could light this gargantuan candle as early as May 7.
The rocket’s roll-out is a monumental (and long-awaited) feat, to be sure, but the real star of today’s show is the 6.5-million-pound beast that will carry it to the launchpad. For more than 50 years, NASA’s crawler-transporters have shuttled spacecraft to and from the pad.
In total, the four-mile journey will take approximately 11 hours. “We refer to that four-mile trip as the first four miles of NASA’s trip to the moon,” Mike Bolger, the Exploration Ground Systems program manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, said in a February 22 media briefing.