After months of testing, troubleshooting and repairs, NASA ran into problems during the refueling of the Space Launch System’s lunar rocket early Monday.the planned launch of its test flight Artemis 1 — to send a pilotless Orion manned capsule on a 42-day mission beyond the moon and back.
The launch was originally planned for 8:33 a.m. EDT, the opening of a two-hour window. The next launch opportunity will be Friday, September 2 at 12:48 pm EDT, if the issues are resolved by then.
Lightning showers moved within five nautical miles of Launch Pad 39B just after midnight, forcing launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson to delay the start of propellant loading by 55 minutes. The six-hour procedure finally got under way at 1:13 a.m. EDT.
then awhile fueling. Another issue as the countdown reached its final hours was troubleshooting to find the cause of a momentary communications failure on one of the channels that transmit commands and telemetry to and from the Orion spacecraft. Another potential problem was a possible indicator of some sort of leak, a crack in the thermal insulation, or some other problem detected on the outside of the rocket’s core stage.
The launch, when it happens, will be an impressive sight. The most powerful rocket ever created by NASA, the SLS has four shuttle-era engines and two strap-on solid-fuel boosters that will generate 8.8 million pounds of ground-shaking thrust to propel the 5.7 million-pound rocket away from pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center.
The rocket part of theThe mission will last just one hour and 36 minutes, propelling the Orion capsule and its European Space Agency-supplied Orion Service Module into space, out of Earth orbit and on a trajectory toward the moon.
After a close flyby at an altitude of just 60 miles, Orion will quickly return to a distant orbit around the moon for two weeks of testing and verification.
If all goes well, the capsule will drop back toward the moon for another close flyby on October 3, which will set up a high-speed descent back to Earth, with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on October 10.
NASA plans to follow up the Artemis 1 mission by launching four astronauts on a circular flight around the moon in 2024, setting the stage for the first astronaut landing in nearly 50 years.. The first woman and the next man could step on the lunar surface in the period 2025-26.
It’s thought there may be ice deposits in lunar craters near the pole, and future astronauts could “mine” that ice if it’s present and accessible, turning it into air, water, and even rocket fuel to vastly reduce the cost of deep space. . exploration.
More broadly, Artemis astronauts will conduct extensive exploration and research to learn more about the origin and evolution of the moon and to test the hardware and procedures that will be necessary before sending astronauts to Mars.
But first, NASA must prove that the rocket and capsule will work as planned, and that starts with the launch of Artemis 1.
The objective of the Artemis 1 mission is to put the Orion spacecraft to the test, testing its solar power, propulsion, navigation and life support systems before returning to Earth on October 10 and a 25,000 mph dive into the atmosphere that will subdue to its protective heat shield at a hellish 5,000 degrees.
Testing the heat shield and confirming that it can protect astronauts returning from deep space is priority number one. 1 Artemis mission priority 1.