KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – A fuel leak issue kept NASA’s new mega Moon rocket on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center and no new launch date has been announced yet.
NASA crews are trying to find a way to stop the leak. The rocket will be rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, but it’s not known when.
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While NASA is not sure when the rocket will be ready again for a launch attempt, they are looking at four possible periods over the next four months, according to the space agency’s website.
- Sept. 19 through Oct. 4 — 14 launch opportunities, with no availability on Sept. 29 or 30
- Oct. 17 through Oct. 31 — 11 launch opportunities, with no availability on Oct. 24, 25, 26 or 28
- (Preliminary) Nov. 12 through Nov. 27 — 12 launch opportunities, with no availability on Nov. 20, 21 or 26
- (Preliminary) Dec. 9 through Dec. 23 — 11 launch opportunities, with no availability on Dec. 10, 14, 18 or 23
Given that NASA said it doesn’t know the source of the latest Hydrogen leak, space journalist Ken Kremer thinks it’s unlikely the next launch attempt will happen until at least the window opening Oct. 17.
“They need to do a deep dive so it’s going to take a little bit of time,” said Kremer of Space UpClose.
There are several factors in determining when a launch might happen, including the Moon’s position in the lunar cycle, the right trajectory so Orion is not in darkness for more than 90 minutes at a time allowing its solar array wings can convert sunlight to electricity, the right trajectory to support Orion’s return to Earth and daylight conditions for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
The date chosen will determine how long the mission will be. The mission can be up to 42 days.
The Space Launch Systems rocket is the most powerful and complex space vehicle ever designed by NASA. It’s meant to launch the Orion capsule to the Moon through the Artemis program.
Artemis I is supposed to be an unmanned mission to orbit the Moon and return, giving NASA the chance to test a number of things they can’t accurately simulate conditions for on Earth, like the heat shield.
If Artemis I is successful, the goal is to launch humans on a lunar orbit mission in 2024, and then land on the Moon in 2025.
“Space is hard. We have seen the tragedies that came along with it,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “You’ve just got to be careful when you put humans on the top of a rocket that’s got all of that firepower and energy. You want to make it right.”
Nelson said 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 the rocket to be hauled off the pad and back into the hangar; that would push the flight into October, according to Nelson.
“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,” Nelson said.
On Saturday, Nelson was also asked about the public’s perception of the delays. It’s already well-publicized that the Artemis program is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
“Some criticism is definitely valid, but we want to get back to the Moon. That is the overriding goal,” Kremer said.
Nelson did not appear worried.
“Everybody is really interested in this mission — going back to the Moon and getting ready to go to Mars,” he said.
Gary Mehrkens traveled from Minnesota hoping to photograph the launch.
Still on the Space Coast Monday, he backs the administrator, saying he believes NASA will get the mission off the ground, eventually.
“They’re the scientists and they’re the engineers,” the space tourist said. “They’re the ones who are going to know when it’s ready and when it’s not.”
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