Most popular stories on GeekWire for the week of Aug. 28, 2022

More than 100,000 people are expected to overwhelm Florida’s Space Coast on Monday morning to watch NASA’s most powerful rocket lift off on a history-making Artemis 1 mission to the moon and beyond — but if you can’t make it in person, watching the launch online may well be the next best thing.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is scheduled to blast off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B at 8:33 a.m. ET (5:33 a.m. PT) Monday, at the start of a two-hour launch window. Forecasters say there’s an 80% chance of acceptable weather at the beginning of the window, declining to 60% by the end.

“We are prepared for anything,” senior test director Jeff Spalding said today. But if weather or technical issues force a postponement, Sept. 2 and 5 are the backup dates for launch.

Streaming video coverage will be provided via NASA TV. (Check out the schedule.)

The Artemis 1 mission calls for the first-ever SLS launch to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a 42-day test flight that features a wide-ranging lunar orbit, coming as close as 62 miles to the moon and ranging as far as 40,000 miles beyond the moon. That will set a distance record for any spacecraft designed to carry astronauts.

At the end of the mission, the Orion capsule will come screaming back to Earth at 25,000 mph, heading for a Pacific Ocean splashdown. One of Artemis 1’s prime objectives is to test the performance of Orion’s heat shield at atmospheric re-entry temperatures ranging as high as 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA and its commercial partners have been working toward this flight for more than a decade. Artemis 1 represents the first real-world test of the SLS-Orion system, setting the stage for Artemis 2’s crewed round-the-moon flight in the 2024 time frame and Artemis 3’s crewed moon landing in 2025 or 2026.

Merely watching the launch should be a thrill — and if you’re watching at home, be sure to turn up the sound. “Put this down first: It’s going to be loud,” NASA’s chief SLS engineer, John Blevins, told Florida Today. With liftoff thrust of 8.8 million pounds, the SLS is 15% more powerful than the Apollo era’s Saturn V rocket.

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