NASA launched the Artemis I mission to the moon on Wednesday in a 26-day uncrewed test of the Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.
The Space Launch System lit up the Florida sky for the first time as it lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 1:47 a.m. EST. The Orion spacecraft and its attached Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) separated from the core stage and entered orbit.
ICPS began an 18-minute trans-lunar injection burn to send Orion to the moon 1 hour 27 minutes after liftoff. The spacecraft separated from the ICPS 10 minutes after the burn ended.
Artemis I is a full-scale test of the rocket and spacecraft that will take astronauts on a flight to the moon on the Artemis II flight. NASA plans to land two astronaut at the lunar south pole on the Artemis III mission using the SpaceX-supplied Human Landing System no earlier than 2025.
The two-hour launch window opened at 1:04 a.m. EST. The launch was delayed by a hydrogen leak in a valve. The space agency sent out a red team that was successful in tightening the valve and stopping the leak.
Engineers also suffered a loss of signal from a radar site required for the launch. Engineers had to replace a bad ethernet switch and test the connections.