NASA to launch first moon rocket since Apollo in 2019

Image copyright NASA Image caption The idea was that the heavy-lift rocket could carry the Orion spacecraft into deep space NASA is planning to launch its first moon rocket since the Apollo programme in…

NASA to launch first moon rocket since Apollo in 2019

Image copyright NASA Image caption The idea was that the heavy-lift rocket could carry the Orion spacecraft into deep space

NASA is planning to launch its first moon rocket since the Apollo programme in February.

The agency is billing the mission, as a test flight of its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket, as being a “milestone in human spaceflight”.

It said in a statement that it would put the Orion spacecraft in lunar orbit.

But it added that it would spend the rest of the year working on technology issues in the new vehicle.

Image copyright NASA Image caption Orion will be launched on this rocket at a launch pad at Cape Canaveral

The SLS rocket will lift the Orion spacecraft into orbit on the same day that a smaller Orion will launch it on a test flight of the space station’s big robot arm.

The first Orion flight test, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), is aimed at boosting the US astronaut corps by taking a group of astronauts to the moon for a series of space walks.

Image copyright NASA Image caption The agency will spend the rest of the year work on the new heavy-lift rocket

In contrast, the SLS will send Orion to the space station on a 500km journey to the inner planets.

It will collect more than 200 pounds of data and imagery about the sun’s magnetic field from NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory.

The next test flight will be called Exploration Mission-2, and will take Orion on a journey to Mars in 2021.

Mission plans were unveiled in March.

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