BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The launch of NASA’s mega moon rocket will be delayed past this week’s launch period as teams work to resolve fuel leak issues.
NASA said during a news conference Saturday afternoon the Space Launch System rocket would not be launching before the period ends, which is through Tuesday. There is another launch period at the end of September that is a possibility for the Artemis I mission and another launch period in October. It has not been decided when NASA will attempt another launch of the SLS rocket.
A reoccurring leak during tanking operations forced NASA to scrub its second attempt at launching the Space Launch System rocket at Kennedy Space Center on Saturday. The rocket will be rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, but it has not been decided when. NASA said Saturday’s fuel leak, compared to Monday’s, was “not a manageable leak.”
NASA said “it’s too early to tell” what needs to be done exactly to resolve the issue and how involved the process will be.
Artemis I is the first mission in NASA’s goal of building a human presence on the moon. The two-hour launch window was set to open at 2:17 p.m. but during tanking operations in the morning, hydrogen fuel began leaking from the engine section at the bottom of the rocket. Engineers tried multiple times to troubleshoot the leak on Saturday and get liquid hydrogen flowing to the core stage before NASA announced the scrub.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said earlier Saturday repair work could bump the launch into October.
After Tuesday, a two-week launch blackout period kicks in. Extensive leak inspections and repairs, meanwhile, could require that the rocket be hauled off the pad and back into the hangar; that would push the flight into October, Nelson said.
“We’ll go when it’s ready. We don’t go until then and especially now on a test flight, because we’re going to stress this and test it ... and make sure it’s right before we put four humans up on the top of it,” Nelson said.
When Artemis I launches, mission managers said the crew capsule will carry three test dummies atop NASA’s most powerful rocket and fly around the moon and back over six weeks during the $4.1 billion flight test.
The mission aims to “demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II,” NASA said.
Saturday’s launch marked the second attempt for the mega moon rocket after the first launch attempt was scrubbed earlier this week due to engine issues. Engineers were unable to get one of the rocket’s engines to a proper temperature range before the launch window ended.
The Artemis program is the long-awaited NASA program to take Americans back to the moon and 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.
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