KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – The wet dress rehearsal for the Artemis I mission accomplished quite a bit, even though crews were forced to stop the crucial test because of a technical issue, NASA officials said Friday.
A hydrogen leak discovered while loading fuel into the Artemis SLS rocket forced NASA to stop the critical test countdown Thursday.
‘’When you have hydrogen leaks and you have ambient oxygen out there, you only need an ignition source, so it was a flammability risk,’’ said Mike Sarafin, the Artemis mission manager.
This comes after other technical issues scrubbed the dress rehearsal two other times this month.
NASA is looking at a range of options to fix the problem. The hope is the issue is fixable at the launch pad, but crews may have to roll the rocket back into the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center to replace a broken valve.
The concern for NASA is also leaving the rocket outside, affected by stress from the elements.
However, NASA officials said the rocket itself is fine.
“That team did an excellent job in accomplishing the objectives as briefed,” said Charlie Blackwell Thompson, the Artemis launch director. And so, we really saw very good performance across the flight systems and again on those things that, on those activities that we accomplished, we didn’t have any significant issues.”
The earliest NASA can attempt to complete the wet dress rehearsal is now April 21. A SpaceX Crew launch planned for April 23 may affect that.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we will finish this test campaign and that we will listen to the hardware and the data will lead us to the next step,” Thompson said, " And we will take the appropriate steps and we will launch the vehicle.”
The timeline for NASA’s Artemis I launch is also now in question. Officials were hoping to complete a test flight in June.