NASA has pushed returned the launch of its Artemis 1 mission to the Moon due to a problem with one of the engines of the giant SLS rocket.
With 40 minutes left on the countdown clock at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, Mission Control announced an unplanned hold while technicians investigated a problem that arose while loading the SLS rocket’s center stage with more than 700,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, supercooled. to -423 and -297 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem was with the third RS-25 engine, one of the engines next to the proper solid rocket booster. The flow of liquid hydrogen into the engine compartment was not working as it should, and the propellant was not in the proper temperature range.
Engineers had put the problem on their checklist during the most recent “wet suit test” in June, during which they practiced powering up and running the countdown sequence up to 29 seconds after launch. But they hadn’t been able to test it at the time because of a liquid hydrogen leak.
This morning, the team also spotted a problem with a vent valve, and an incoming rainstorm and the possibility of lightning strikes also posed risks. After working out the kinks for more than an hour, pitching manager Charlie Blackwell-Thompson called today’s attempt a rub.
At a press conference held shortly after 1 p.m. ET, NASA officials did not commit to a specific date for the next attempt. “Friday is still up for grabs,” said Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin, referring to Sept. 2, the next planned launch window. When pressed by reporters for specifics on how likely Friday’s release would be, he called it a “non-zero chance,” to much laughter from the crowd in the room. The next possible release date, if Friday is not an option, is September 5th.
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 further delay would be needed long and more serious repairs. “We won’t have all the data and implications today, but we feel we owe it to you to share what we know,” Free said.
Speaking on the space agency’s live broadcast earlier this morning shortly after the launch was cleared, Nelson stressed the need to resolve all issues. “We don’t pitch until it’s right,” Nelson said. “It’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated system, and all these 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.”
The first Artemis flight will be unmanned. After launch, the Orion capsule, carrying three dummies, will head on a 42-day mission that will involve several orbits around the Moon, as well as a 40,000-mile loop beyond it, before returning to the Land and splash into the Pacific Ocean. near San Diego. Its reentry will serve as a test of a new heat shield material called Avcoat, and the mission will also collect performance metrics as well as radiation data from sensors worn by the dummies.