NASA has pushed delays the launch of its Artemis 1 mission to the moon due to a problem with one of the giant SLS rocket’s engines.
With 40 minutes remaining on the countdown clock at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Mission Control announced an unplanned wait while technicians investigated a problem that had arisen while loading the core stage of the SLS rocket with more than 700,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen. and liquid oxygen, supercooled. at a frigid -423 and -297 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem was in the third RS-25 engine, one of the engines next to the right solid rocket booster. The liquid hydrogen flow in the engine compartment was not working as it should and the propellant was not in the proper temperature range.
Engineers put the issue on their checklist during the most recent “wet dress rehearsal” in June, during which they practiced refueling and running the countdown sequence up to 29 seconds after launch. But they were unable to test it at the time due to a liquid hydrogen leak.
This morning, the team also detected a problem with a vent valve, and an incoming storm and the possibility of lightning also pose risks. After troubleshooting for more than an hour, release manager Charlie Blackwell-Thompson called today’s attempt a cleanup.
In a press conference held shortly after 1 pm ET, NASA officials did not commit to a specific date for the next attempt. “Friday is definitely still in the cards,” said Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin, referring to Sept. 2, the next planned launch window. When pressed by reporters for details on the probability of a launch on Friday, he called it a “non-zero probability,” drawing much laughter from people in the room. The next possible release date, if Friday isn’t an option, is September 5.
None of the officials, who included NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Jim Free, the agency’s associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, were ready to say whether a longer delay and repairs would be necessary. more serious. “We’re not going to have all the data and implications today, but we felt we should share what we know with you,” Free said.
Speaking on the space agency’s livestream this morning, shortly after the launch was called off, Nelson emphasized the need to work out all the kinks. “We don’t pitch until he’s good,” Nelson said. “It is illustrative that this is a very complicated system, and all those things have to work. You don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.” He cited the example of the 24th space shuttle launch in 1986, which was scrubbed four times before launching “a flawless mission”.
Artemis’ first flight will be unmanned. After launch, the Orion capsule, carrying three mannequins, will embark on a 42-day mission that will include several orbits around the Moon, as well as a 40,000-mile loop beyond it, before returning to Earth and splashing down in the Ocean. Peaceful. near San Diego. Their re-entry will serve as a test of a new heat shield material called Avcoat, and the mission will also collect performance metrics throughout, as well as radiation data from sensors worn by the dummies.