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Artemis I: NASA has missed the first launch window for its SLS rocket

NASA has had to delay the launch of its powerful SLS rocket. new scientistLeah Crane reports from the scene in Florida

Space


29 Aug 2022

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft on board at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida

NASA/Joel Kowsky

The first launch of NASA’s massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has been delayed once again. Engineers are now working to fix the issues that threatened the August 29th launch attempt with the hope of trying again in early September.

It has been raining on and off at Cape Canaveral in Florida for a week. The night I arrived, lightning struck the towers erected for the same purpose around the SLS on its launch pad. As other journalists and I began arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early on August 29, the heavens opened.

But the rain wasn’t the biggest problem for the Artemis I mission, the start of NASA’s campaign to send humans back to the moon for the first time since 1972. In a rehearsal in April, SLS faced a leak in one of its liquid hydrogens. lines. On launch day, it was leaked again. Then the tube used to charge the hydrogen got too hot. By the time it cooled down and hydrogen began pouring back into the tank, the mood in the newsroom had changed despite the clearing sky.

It was almost 4:00 in the morning local time, with the launch window scheduled for 8:33 to 10:33, and already the delays were piling up, there was talk of packing up the coffee machine. But the rocket was still fueling up, so we held on.

NASA did the same thing, continue fueling the rocket. Around 6:00, two more problems arose: one of the four engines was not cooling enough and what appeared to be a crack appeared between the hydrogen and oxygen tanks. It later turned out that the crack was in the foam insulation, not the tanks themselves, but the engine problem persisted for the rest of the morning.

In the end, the engineers were unable to solve the problem in time. The next release window opens on September 2, with another on September 5. If the spacecraft needs to be pushed back to fix the engine problem, it will likely be delayed beyond that.

After years of delays, a few more days or weeks may not seem like much, but such an abrupt stop when launch seemed so close was hard to stomach. However, there was nothing left to do but put away the coffee machine, leave the Kennedy Space Center, and wait for NASA to try again.

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