Huge Artemis 1 moon rocket blew the doors off NASA's launch tower elevators (video)
NASA is assessing the damage Artemis 1 left behind after the huge SLS rocket launched on Nov. 16, but officials emphasize everything is manageable for future missions.
Science & Tech
NASA's powerful new moon rocket damaged its launch pad and blew away elevator doors in the launch tower during its inaugural liftoff last week.
Artemis 1, the first flight of the Artemis program, launched early Wednesday morning (Nov. 16). Nearly 9 million pounds (4 million kg) of thrust took the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket into the final frontier, where it successfully sent an uncrewed Orion spacecraft toward the moon.
While the mission is otherwise nominal, the damage left behind is something NASA is closely looking at to prepare for future missions of the Artemis program, including the next planned one with humans on board: Artemis 2, set to fly around the moon no earlier than 2024.
"The damage that we did see pertains to really, just a couple of areas," emphasized NASA's Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager, in a press conference with reporters on Monday (Nov. 21).
"It just goes to show," he added, "that the environment ... is not the friendliest when you have the world's most powerful rocket lifting off."
Like the space shuttle before it, Artemis 1's launch used a water suppression system to reduce the amount of damage to the launching deck, which worked as expected. Nevertheless, paint was peeled off the deck of Artemis 1's launch tower due to the sheer force of the liftoff, Sarafin said.
The elevators for servicing the launch tower fared less well, with photos showing crooked framing around at least one of the two lifts after the doors were ripped away by the shock wave generated by the SLS.
"The elevator system is not functioning right now," Sarafin explained. "The pressure basically blew the doors off our elevators ... right now, the elevators are inoperable, and we need to get those back into service."