BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – NASA is making the final preparations ahead of the historic Artemis moon rocket launch Monday morning, but there’s one thing space officials won’t know until mere hours before the scheduled 8:33 a.m. liftoff.
The question remains: Did engineers actually solve the problematic hydrogen leak that plagued previous test attempts?
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That’s something the Artemis I mission managers will be looking out for come Sunday night as they start tanking the giant orange fuel tank known as the backbone of the Space Launch System.
“Our team here — the explorations ground team — has worked so hard and so diligently to get that hydrogen leak corrected,” said Derrol Nail, a NASA commentator.
In a wet dress rehearsal in April, the leak, which posed a flammability risk, caused the test to be scrubbed.
“It has a reputation as being a very slippery propellant, especially when it’s super chilled down to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. This stuff is hard to contain. It’s the smallest molecule known to humans and so keeping it contained and releasing all of that energy, it’s really difficult,” Nail said.
The problem on the SLS was a 4-inch disconnect at the connection point between the rocket and the mobile launcher. While NASA has since changed out the seals, space officials won’t find out if that fix works until hours leading up to the launch when technicians gush liquid hydrogen through that connection point.
“We’ve done the best job we can to repair this leak here. So we’re going to roll this rocket out, we have great confidence, and when we get out there, it’s going to hold,” Nail said. “But you know it’ll be the first time, as you said, that we’ve had it on the pad ready to go since we’ve had that leak, and the hope is that it’s going to hold. We’re going to launch this thing.”
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