NASA modifies critical testing of mega moon rocket after several delays

Testing of SLS rocket for Artemis I mission to resume Tuesday

A modified wet dress rehearsal is planned this week to finish testing NASA’s mega moon rocket as part of its Artemis programs taking Americans back to the moon.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A modified wet dress rehearsal is planned this week to finish testing NASA’s mega moon rocket as part of its Artemis programs taking Americans back to the moon.

The Space Launch System rocket with an Orion spacecraft on top for NASA’s Artemis I mission stands at 322 feet tall rocket and with two heavy rocket boosters, it weighs in at 18 million pounds. The mission will see the first SLS uncrewed launch around the moon.

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The “wet dress rehearsal” process encompasses everything up to and including the fueling of the rocket and a final countdown to launch simulation, according to News 6 partner Florida Today. The teams accomplished most of its objectives during the two tests on April 3 and 4, revealing supply fan and vent valve issues, officials said.

“Engineers have identified a helium check valve that is not functioning as expected, requiring these changes to ensure safety of the flight hardware. Helium is used for several different operations, including purging the engine, or clearing the lines, prior to loading propellants during tanking, as well as draining propellant,” NASA wrote on its blog.

Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development, said during a teleconference call Monday they’re practicing caution and some of the objectives are being limited in Thursday’s rehearsal.

“For the most part, we’re going to get a lot more data coming out Thursday and I’m very excited about that,” he said. “... We’re very comfortable with the path forward, we think it’s a great path forward. We’re learning a lot about this rocket.”

The modified testing will “primarily focus on tanking the core stage and minimal propellant operations on the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) with the ground systems at Kennedy.” It will resume Tuesday with a call to stations at 5 p.m. and tanking on Thursday, NASA said.

After the entire wet dress rehearsal is eventually completed, the rocket will be rolled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building for final checks and the valve will be evaluated to determine whether it needs to be replaced.

The Artemis program is the long-awaited NASA program to take Americans back to the moon and beyond, possibly to Mars.

If the first mission is successful, it will be followed by a crewed test mission that will orbit the moon. If that mission is successful, Artemis III’s goal will be to land on the moon.

Currently, Artemis I is slated to launch no earlier than June.


About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.