NASA moves up SLS rocket rollout at KSC ahead of Artemis moon mission

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NASA teams at Kennedy Space Center have moved up rollout of the agency's Space Launch System rocket ahead of its premiere flight, a move that still sets the stage for launch later this month.

The 322-foot SLS rocket topped with an Orion capsule will roll from the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building to pad 39B no earlier than 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday, NASA said, giving teams slightly more schedule flexibility. Rollout had initially been planned for three days later on Friday.

"Over the weekend the team completed testing of the flight termination system, which marked the final major activity prior to closing out the rocket and retracting the final access platforms in the VAB," KSC said in a release.

The flight termination system, or FTS, is designed to destroy the rocket in the event of an emergency.

If all goes according to plan, one of NASA's historic crawler-transporters will take SLS from the VAB to pad 39B at a constantly changing but maximum speed of 1 mph. Covering the roughly four miles takes upwards of 11 hours.

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SLS and its Orion capsule are the vehicles designed by NASA to take astronauts back to the surface of the moon sometime this decade. The first flight set for 8:33 a.m. EDT August 29, known as Artemis I, will not include a crew as it autonomously travels to the moon and back. Artemis II will run the same mission, but with astronauts, in 2023 or 2024.

Artemis III is expected to put two NASA astronauts back on the lunar surface no earlier than 2025.

Also targeting Friday are SpaceX teams at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where a Falcon 9 rocket is slated to launch another batch of Starlink internet satellites Friday afternoon. That mission, the 56th for Starlink, is expected to fly sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. EDT, though SpaceX has not yet released any details.

That launch will include a drone ship landing in the Atlantic Ocean. For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: NASA moves up SLS rocket rollout at KSC ahead of Artemis moon mission