KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – A series of major tests NASA still needs to complete before it can launch its new rocket built to go to the moon resumed Tuesday at Launch Pad 39B.
The Space Launch System rocket’s wet dress rehearsal could have finished already, but NASA said technical difficulties since April 3 have delayed completion.
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In its latest attempt, NASA said the tanking process of the test will resume on Thursday with fueling the core stage of SLS but not the upper stage where teams discovered a helium check valve that isn’t working and can’t be fixed at the pad.
If the test is finally complete Thursday, NASA will look at the data and move the SLS rocket and the mobile launcher back to the Vehicle Assembly Building where the rocket made its public debut four weeks ago.
Once inside the VAB, NASA said it will be able to take a closer look at replacing the 3-inch valve.
“They’ll make any repairs or adjustments that might be necessary depending on how the test goes,” CBS News space analyst Bill Harwood said. “Then, they’re going to roll it back out to the pad and if all goes well, they could launch this on its maiden flight as early as June.”
Under development since 2011, Congress originally mandated the maiden flight to be in 2016.
Along with being years behind schedule, NASA’s inspector general reported America’s return to the moon is also billions of dollars over budget.
Each launch of the SLS rocket will cost $4 billion and astronauts landing on the moon isn’t planned until the third launch of the Artemis program.
“The SLS rocket is a great rocket but it’s very expensive,” Space UpClose journalist Dr. Ken Kremer said. “But that’s the only way we can really get our astronauts to the moon.”