KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA officials updated the Artemis I moon mission during a teleconference Thursday morning, describing the agency’s new plan to try again for launch before September ends.
Pending range approval and depending on whether the Space Launch System rocket should be rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for testing of its flight termination system, NASA targeted Sept. 23 and 27 for its next Artemis I launch attempts. A cryo demo, or tanking test, is scheduled for Sept. 17 in order to verify that engineers fixed a hydrogen leak.
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“So, big picture, by replacing the seals and going through this cryo event making the tanking process as benign as possible, we’re optimistic that we can knock this problem flat and have a successful tanking,” said Mike Bolger, Exploration Ground Systems program manager.
“From there, we’ll determine whether we stay at the pad for a launch attempt... or whether we roll back. I will tell you the team is making great progress. Morale is good, (we’re) still excited for this opportunity that we’ve got. As always, we’ll launch when we’re ready. We’ve talked with our team, last week wasn’t our week, but we know our day is coming and we’re excited about it,” Bolger said.
Should the launch occur Sept. 23, it would target a two-hour launch window that opens at 6:47 a.m., with splashdown Oct. 18, officials said; a launch on Sept. 27 would happen during a 70-minute launch window that opens at 11:37 a.m., with splashdown Nov. 5.
The teleconference took place at 11 a.m., with Bolger joined by associate administrator Jim Free and SLS chief engineer John Blevins.
Free said the range has been a great partner to the mission so far with regard to re-testing; the submitted waiver is meant to allow re-testing equipment onto the range.
This comes after the Space Launch System rocket was set to launch from Kennedy Space Center over the weekend before being scrubbed due to the persistent hydrogen leak.
On Tuesday, NASA decided to attempt to replace a seal on the quick disconnect between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line on the launcher and the rocket while at Launch Pad 39B.
Working at the pad will also allow crews to gather as much data as possible to better understand the cause of the issue, NASA said.
Over the weekend, NASA said it would likely roll the rocket back to the VAB, a step mission managers had hoped to avoid because of the stress it would put on the vehicle.
Should the rocket go back to the VAB, it would be to reset the flight termination system’s batteries.
NASA ahead of Thursday’s teleconference was looking at four possible launch 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
Artemis I is an uncrewed mission with the purpose of orbiting the moon and testing the rocket’s capabilities on its maiden launch.
If successful, NASA hopes to launch a crewed mission, Artemis II, in 2024, and achieve a moon landing with Artemis III in 2025.