NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket will be grounded for at least four more days.
NASA had been eyeing September 23 or 27 for the launch of Artemis 1, which will use a Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket to send an Orion capsule on an uncrewed test flight into lunar orbit. But the agency announced in a blog post on Monday evening (September 12) that the earlier date was no longer in play; it is now targeting September 27 for liftoff of Artemis 1, with a possible backup date of October 2.
Artemis 1 was supposed to be already in the air. NASA first attempted to launch the mission on August 29, but was stalled by an abnormal temperature reading in one of the SLS’s first-stage RS-25 engines. The mission team quickly traced this problem to a faulty temperature sensor and readied the SLS and Orion for another test on September 3. But one liquid hydrogen propellant leak also scuttled this takeoff attempt.
The leak occurred at a “quick disconnect”, an interface connecting the SLS core stage to a propellant line from the rocket’s mobile launch tower. The Artemis 1 team replaced two seals around the quick disconnect last week and completed other repair work related to the issue over the weekend, NASA officials wrote in the update.
NASA is now preparing for an SLS refueling test, which will pump supercold propellant into the SLS to show that the leak has been fixed. The agency was aiming for September 17 for this test, but it has now been pushed back to September 21 at the earliest.
“The updated dates represent careful consideration of several logistical topics, including the added value of having more time to prepare for the cryogenic demonstration test, and subsequently more time to prepare for launch,” they said. writes NASA officials in monday blog post (opens in a new tab). “The dates also allow managers to ensure teams have enough rest and to replenish cryogenic propellant stocks.”
The Artemis 1 stack remains at NASA Pad 39B Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but he may end up having to go back to KSC’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The US space forcewhich oversees the Eastern Range for rocket launches, has certified the Artemis 1 Flight Termination System (FTS) for just 25 days – and that time has already passed.
NASA has requested an extension for certification of the FTS, which is designed to destroy the Artemis 1 stack if it veers off course during liftoff. If this request is refused, the vehicle will have to be transferred from pad 39B to VAB, the only place where the tests required for recertification can take place. (Artemis 1 may need to return to the VAB for repairs anyway, if the pad fixes don’t end up sticking.)
“NASA continues to follow the process of reviewing the agency’s request for an extension of the current testing requirement for the flight shutdown system and is providing additional information and data as needed,” wrote NASA in Monday’s update. “In parallel, the agency is continuing preparations for the cryogenic demonstration test and potential launch opportunities, should the application be approved.”
NASA has already received such an FTS extension, from 20 days to 25 days.
Artemis 1’s next two launch dates are close to SpaceX’s Crew-5 Astronaut Mission for NASA, scheduled to launch to the International Space Station from KSC’s Pad 39A on October 3.
“Teams are working on the next commercial crew launch alongside planning for Artemis 1, and both launch schedules will continue to be evaluated over the coming weeks,” NASA officials wrote in the update. Monday update.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).