Is NASA’s new Artemis I launch date realistic? Here’s what needs to happen before lift off

NASA targeting Sept. 27 for next launch attempt

NASA is now targeting a 70-minute launch window beginning at 11:37 a.m. on Sept. 27. A second opportunity opens at 2:52 p.m. for 109 minutes on Oct. 2.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – NASA said the latest hydrogen leak on its Artemis I moon rocket should now be fixed, but mission managers still have to test it and that’s why the launch team needs the additional time.

NASA is now targeting a 70-minute launch window beginning at 11:37 a.m. on Sept. 27. A second opportunity opens at 2:52 p.m. for 109 minutes on Oct. 2.

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The liquid hydrogen leak that caused the most recent launch scrub was at a different quick-disconnect; there are several on the rocket.

When the Artemis I moon rocket lifts off, the connection points where fuel will have flowed from the Mobile Launcher into the rocket must disconnect — quickly.

After replacing seals inside the quick-disconnect, techs are now trying to make sure the connection points fit together tightly and perfectly. They will find out for sure next Wednesday when they do a tanking test.

But there’s something else NASA needs before it can attempt another launch: The space agency needs the Space Force to grant a waiver for its Flight Termination System (FTS), the ability to destroy the moon rocket if it goes off course.

The rocket has sat on the launchpad so long that the FTS, powered by internal batteries, needs to be recertified by the Space Force. NASA is giving the Space Force extensive data on the FTS to try and prove the system will still work without retesting and recertification.

If the FTS has to be recertified, the moon rocket has to be rolled back off the launchpad and into the Vehicle Assembly Building.

CBS News Space Analyst Bill Harwood said the Space Force does grant waivers, if the data justifies it.

“We don’t know what information NASA is giving them to support their case and we don’t know if the Space Force is going to accept it,” Harwood said.

The Space Force controls the Eastern Range and is responsible for the safety of the public when any rocket launches from Florida’s east coast.

NASA has been treading lightly on the waiver issue.

Associate Administrator Jim Free sounded hopeful on a teleconference last week but not pushy.

“After meeting with us several times again they’ve [the Space Force] been very gracious and understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Free said. “We’ll continue to work with our great partner in the range as they evaluate the realism and feasibility of our waiver request.”

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.