NASA had to postpone the launch of the Artemis 1 mission for a second time, the inaugural test flight of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket with the Orion capsule, with the goal of returning humans to the Moon. The space agency is now evaluating the next steps.
The countdown progressed as expected early Saturday morning (3) until the supply permit. The procedure involves first supplying the car with liquid oxygen, then liquid hydrogen – the two are combined into engines to boost combustion and propulsion of the car.
However, during the hydrogen supply procedure, a leak was detected again, this time at a different location than the one identified and overrun in the previous launch attempt, which was conducted last Monday (29).
Now the leak was bigger and seemed to come from the quick disconnect device connecting the hydrogen supply tube to the rocket’s first stage.
The engineers tried to troubleshoot the problem remotely, raising the system temperature to see if the seal would be perfect again upon cooling. did not work. An attempt has also been made to add pressure with helium, which is inert, which is equally ineffective.
Since a leak would damage the vehicle’s supply, the teams decided to recommend delaying the launch attempt, a decision made by flight director Charlie Blackwell Thompson, at 12:17 p.m. (exactly three hours before the flight window opened). attempt).
Delays of this kind are not uncommon, especially with a new missile on its first flight. And there’s a lot at stake for the US space agency if it fails, after investing $23.8 billion over the past 11 years to develop the SLS.
On Saturday afternoon, the mission management team will assess the situation, but there is already talk of returning the rocket and capsule to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), the massive and iconic hangar located on NASA’s nearby Platforms 39A and 39B. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
That would be the most bitter alternative, as a return to the assembly building would push a new launch attempt into “mid-October,” according to agency official Bill Nelson.
If the team feels confident to make a new launch attempt without removing the rocket from Platform 39B, it may have to do so on Monday (5) or Tuesday (6). After that date, a return to the building is mandatory, due to the batteries powering the missile’s remote destruction system, which need to be recharged and re-certified.
Artemis 1 is the first mission on the manned return journey to the Moon. This will be the inaugural unmanned test flight, the idea being that its success will pave the way for the Artemis 2 (2024) and 3 (2026) missions, which will bring humans to the lunar ocean and surface for the first time. century, respectively. The last time astronauts walked on the moon was in December 1972, on the Apollo 17 mission.
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”