NASA’s Space Launch System, a Huntsville-designed rocket that the space agency calls the most powerful rocket in the world, launched early this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Carrying the uncrewed Orion spacecraft, the SLS lifted off at 1:47 a.m. Eastern time. Orion is planned to travel about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and return to Earth in about 26 days.
The Artemis I mission is a test, with a crewed flight planned for the Artemis II mission.
“What an incredible sight to see NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft launch together for the first time. This uncrewed flight test will push Orion to the limits in the rigors of deep space, helping us prepare for human exploration on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville managed the SLS rocket development. In addition, Decatur’s United Launch Alliance, under contract with Boeing, and Huntsville’s Dynetics, among other companies, were involved in the Artemis program.
“It was an absolutely beautiful launch — visually and technically,” said John Shannon, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s SLS program. “This rocket controls incredible forces while speeding through the atmosphere. It performed the mission as we designed it to do, and we thank our team and partners for all their hard work in making this first launch a success.”