NASA wants the first launch of the Space Launch System to happen at the end of 2021. The reason for the delay is, of course, the coronavirus pandemic.
NASA’s assistant deputy associate administrator, Tom Whitmeye, stated that the agency would announce in a week that the launch date for the Artemis 1 mission was moved to late 2021. He said: “We’re feeling fairly comfortable that we will be having the Artemis 1 mission towards the end of next year.” He didn’t want to say anything more about the date.
But is this surprising? Speaking back in February, NASA associate administrator, Steve Jurczyk, stated that the agency had in its mind the first SLS launch in the mid to late ’21 timeframe.
He made this statement before the coronavirus outbreak shut down many NASA activities, one of them being the SLS testing. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was closed until mid-March when it went to Stage 4 (the highest level), the response plan because of COVID-19 of NASA. Normally, this stopped the preparations for a “Green Run” static fire test of the SLS core stage.
NASA will bring back its employees soon
But after two months, work started to resume at Stennis. The space agency stated that the return to the center will happen with a limited crew, and that they will begin to work on the SLS test stand, then they will begin the preparations for resuming the tests. Stennis wants to move to Stage 3 in the next month, thing that will allow more of the crew to get on the site to return to their usual activity.
But it will take some time before we actually see the full test activities resume, but NASA is working on it with processes and procedures which will keep the crew safe on the site: “We’re slowly bringing people back, in a methodical way, to complete the preparations for the core stage.”