The NASA mission management team has made the decision to retry the launch of the Artemis 1 mission. Space Launch System on Saturday afternoonsaying a faulty sensor was to blame for the scrub this past Monday.
The space agency’s 322-foot-tall (98-meter) Space Launch System (SLS) currently stands proudly on Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but hopefully not for very long. After reviewing the data from monday scrub, NASA’s mission management team decided to go ahead with the mission, telling reporters Tuesday night that the next launch attempt will be on Saturday. NASA had previously selected Friday, September 2 and Monday, September 5 as possible launch days, so the decision to attempt a Saturday launch came as a complete surprise.
At the briefing, Marc Berger, a meteorologist with the US Air Force Weather Squadron, assessed the likelihood of a weather violation occurring within the launch window to be 60%. It looks daunting, but Berger said afternoon showers are likely to be sporadic and that they “tend to have a lot of real estate between them,” so a launch opportunity will likely present itself within the two-hour window. Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said that in the event of weather-induced scrubbing, another launch attempt could be made within 48 hours.
All eyes are on Kennedy Space Center, as NASA attempts to launch the largest rocket the space agency has ever built. Departing from the launch pad with 8.8 million pounds of thrust, SLS will attempt to deliver an uncrewed Orion capsule to space, where it will make a round trip to the Moon and back. Artemis 1 is a test mission intended to set the stage for a crewed Artemis 2 mission in 2024 and a crewed Artemis 3 mission to the lunar surface later this decade. Through his Artemis programNASA is trying to get humans back into the lunar environment and keep them there.
The reason for Monday’s scrub had to do with a mid-stage motor not reaching the ultra-cold temperature required for launch. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, SLS program manager John Honeycutt said the problem resulted from a faulty sensor, rather than the engine not reaching the desired cooling temperature. “We see some quality in the data,” he said, leading the team to be optimistic about the next attempt at engine cooling. That said, Honeycutt said his team is developing a plan if a similar engine reading appears during Saturday’s launch attempt. “We will have a plan for a go/no-go rather than sitting around scratching our heads,” he added.
Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager, said a change will be made to the loading procedure as crews will initiate engine cooling.shutdown procedure earlier than usual. SLS features four RS-25 engines that must be ultra-cool before the sudden influx of cryogenic propellants during launch. On Monday, sensor readings indicated Engine #3 did not reach target temperature, but NASA says it most likely reached the desired temperature of around -420 degrees Fahrenheit (-250 degrees Celsius) .
Additionally, crews will perform work on the pad to address the observed leak at the umbilical of the hydrogen tail service mast, Sarafin added. Says Blackwell-Thompson on the upcoming pad work: “We want to do some inspections and do some tightening.”
Monday’s scrub drew criticism from experts, who complained that NASA essentially used the launch attempt as a fifth dress rehearsal. Four pre-trials that took place earlier this year were not run to completion, with approximatelymapproximately 10% of test objectives not taken into account. Aside from the Green Run tests performed at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the launch countdown did not exceed T-29 seconds.
SLS could take off on Saturday, but that will force NASA to venture into uncharted territory, especially during the very last stages of the launch. Hopefully NASA’s vast experience with rockets will prevail and we can finally see this majestic rocket soar through Florida.a sky.