SLS Set to Make Debut on Monday

Artemis I Space Launch System and Orion capsule at Launch Complex 39B. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The long-awaited launch of NASA’s Space Launch System is scheduled for Monday morning. The massive rocket is scheduled to launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on an extended checkout around the moon.

It will be the first launch of a vehicle capable of carrying crew to Earth’s closest celestial neighbor since the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.

If the Artemis I mission is successful, NASA plans to fly crew around the moon on the next flight in about two years. That would be followed by a landing of two astronauts at the lunar south pole aboard the Human Landing System during the Artemis III mission as early as 2025.

In addition to Artemis I, SpaceX is scheduled to launch 46 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Wednesday. China is scheduled to launch a Long March 4C rocket with an unidentified payload on Friday.

Monday, August 29

Launch Vehicle: Space Launch System Block 1
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center
Launch Window: 8:33-10:33 a.m. EDT (12:33-14:33 UTC)
Launching Agency: NASA
Payloads: Orion lunar spacecraft, 10 secondary payloads
Primary Payload Purpose: Flight test around the moon
Secondary Payload Purposes: See below

Artemis I Secondary Payloads

ArgoMoonItalian Space AgencyHeliocentricSpacecraft will demonstrate capacity of CubeSats to conduct precise maneuvers in deep space by providing detailed images of the SLS’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage 
BioSentinelNASAHeliocentricSpacecraft will use budding yeast to detect, measure, and compare the impact of deep space radiation on DNA repair
CuSP NASAHeliocentricSpace weather measurements
EQUULEUSUniversity of TokyoEarth-moon L26U CubeSat will measure the distribution of plasma around Earth
LunaH-MapNASASelenocentricLunar polar orbiter will search for evidence of frozen water deposits
Lunar IceCubeNASASelenocentricLunar orbiter will search for frozen water deposits
LunIRLockheed Martin SpaceHeliocentricDemonstration technology to collect surface spectroscopy and thermography
Near-Earth Asteroid ScoutNASAHeliocentricTechnology demonstration of solar sail to rendezvous with asteroid
OMOTENASHIJapan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)SelenocentricSmallest vehicle to attempt lunar lander
Team MilesFluid and Reason, LLCHeliocentricTechnology demonstration of plasma thrusters

Wednesday, August 31

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Launch Company: SpaceX
Launch Site: Vandenberg Space Force Base
Launch Time: 1:40 a.m. EDT/05:40 GMT; 10:40 p.m. PDT on Aug. 30
Payloads: 46 Starlink
Payload Purpose: Broadband communications
Payload Owner: SpaceX

Friday, September 2

Launch Vehicle: Long March 4C
Launch Company: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
Launch Time: TBA
Payload: TBA


There were two Chinese launches and an American one during the past week.

SpaceX launched another 54 Starlink satellites on Saturday night from a launch complex at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida just down the coast from where NASA’s Space Launch System is set to make its maiden flight on Monday morning.

China launched twice earlier in the week, orbiting a pair of technology demonstration satellites and an Earth observation spacecraft.

Aug. 21-28, 2022

August 23

Launch Vehicle: Kuaizhou 1A
Launch Company: ExPace
Launch Site: Xichang Satellite Launch Center
Payloads: Chuangxin-16A, Chuangxin-16B
Payload Purpose: Technology demonstration
Payload Owner: Chinese Academy of Sciences

August 24

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Launch Company: CASC
Launch Site: Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center
Payload: Beijing-3B
Payload Purpose: Earth observation
Payload Owner: Twenty First Century Aerospace Technology

August 27

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Launch Company: SpaceX
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Payloads: 54 Starlink
Payload Purpose: Broadband communications
Payload Owner: SpaceX


There have been 108 orbital launches this year, with 104 successes and four failures.

U.S. companies have launched 55 times this year, with 53 successes and two failures. SpaceX has succesfully launched 38 Falcon 9 rockets this year, representing 35.2% of global flights. Both U.S. failures were by Astra Space, which retired its Rocket 3.3 booster.

Orbital Launches by Nation
January – August 28, 2022

NationSuccessesFailuresTotalPercentage of Total LaunchesNotes
United States5325550.9Includes Rocket Lab Electron launches from New Zealand; final flight of Rocket 3.3 (failure)
China3313431.5Crew, cargo and module launches to space station; successful maiden flights of Long March 6A and ZK-1A
Russia1201211.1Successful maiden flight of Angara-1.2; includes 1 Soyuz ST-B launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana conducted by Arianespace
India2132.82 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (success), Small Satellite Launch Vehicle debut (failure — maiden flight)
Europe2021.9Ariane 5, maiden flight of Vega-C
Iran1010.9Qased launch vehicle
South Korea1010.9First successful launch of domestically produced orbital launch vehicle (Nuri); second sucessful orbital launch by nation

China has conducted 33 successful launches and experienced one failure. Russia has launched a dozen times, India thrice with one failure, and Europe twice. Iran and South Korea have one launch apiece. Japan is still not yet on the board.