Pending final assessment, NASA clears Artemis moon rocket for second launch attempt Saturday

NASA’s Artemis 1 moon launch rescheduled

NASA’s Artemis 1 moon launch rescheduled for Saturday after technical issues


NASA will make a second attempt to launch the company’s big Space Launch System rocket Saturday on a check flight to ship an unpiloted Orion crew capsule across the moon and again, a significant milestone within the company’s bold Artemis program.

Grounded Monday by bother cooling one of many rocket’s 4 shuttle-era engines to the required pre-start temperature, managers mentioned Tuesday engineers have give you a work-around. Assuming final clearance to proceed, the launch group will begin a recent countdown at 4:07 p.m. EDT Thursday.

That will set the stage for blastoff on the Artemis 1 mission at 2:17 p.m. Saturday, someday later than NASA’s authentic backup launch date. As at all times, the group must work across the climate, with forecasters predicting a 60% probability of stormy situations throughout the rocket’s two-hour launch window.

The Space Launch System moon rocket on pad 39B ready one other launch attempt Saturday at 2:17 p.m. EDT.

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Mike Sarafin, chairman of NASA’s mission administration group, mentioned the core stage fueling process will likely be adjusted in an attempt to enhance cooling to all 4 RS-25 engines. In addition, fittings will likely be tightened round a fuel-line umbilical on the base of the rocket to enhance sealing and forestall leaks like one which briefly occurred Monday.

“We agreed on what was called ‘option 1,’ which was to operationally change the (fuel) loading procedure and start our engine chilldown earlier,” Sarafin mentioned. “We also agreed to do some work at the pad to address the leak that we saw at the hydrogen tail service mast umbilical.

“And we additionally agreed to maneuver our launch date to Saturday. We are going to reconvene the Mission Management Team on Thursday to assessment our flight rationale and our total readiness.”

The 322-foot-tall 5.75-million-pound SLS is the strongest rocket ever constructed by NASA, producing 8.8 million kilos of thrust at liftoff utilizing 4 Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines left over from the shuttle program and two Northrop Grumman stable rocket boosters hooked up to a Boeing-built core stage.

Accelerating to 70 mph β€” straight up β€” in simply seven seconds, the stable rocket boosters and the core stage will increase the Orion capsule, carrying instrumented check dummies and a suite of sensors and experiments, into an elliptical orbit. The rocket’s higher stage, offered by United Launch Alliance, then will propel the capsule out of Earth’s gravity and onto a trajectory to the moon.

After a detailed flyby, the capsule will whip across the moon and out right into a distant orbit that can carry it farther from Earth than any human-rated spacecraft. Then, after one other lunar flyby, the ship will head again to Earth for splashdown within the Pacific Ocean west of San Diego on October 11.

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The purpose of the Artemis 1 mission is to place the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft by means of their paces, together with a high-speed, high-temperature re-entry, earlier than launching 4 astronauts across the moon in late 2024. The first Artemis moon touchdown is deliberate for the 2025-26 timeframe.

Given the continually altering positions of the Earth and moon, together with the rocket’s skill to succeed in the right trajectory, NASA should launch the Artemis 1 mission inside particular “windows.”

Complicating the image, the battery utilized by the higher stage’s self-destruct system have to be serviced after 25 days, and that may solely be executed again in NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

That means the Artemis 1 mission should get off the bottom by Monday or the rocket will likely be hauled again to the VAB, delaying one other launch attempt till late September on the earliest or, extra probably, to October.

The SLS rocket is the important thing to the Artemis program and NASA managers and engineers need to make certain it really works as deliberate earlier than launching astronauts to the moon.

A full-duration eight-minute core stage engine check firing was carried out on the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on March 18, 2021. The rocket then was shipped to the Kennedy Space Center for launch processing.

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NASA carried out a dress-rehearsal countdown and fueling check on April 3, a key milestone wanted to ensure the rocket, launch pad and floor techniques work collectively as deliberate. But engineers ran right into a sequence of largely ground-system issues that prevented them from loading propellants,

Two extra fueling makes an attempt failed on April 4 and 14 resulting from quite a lot of unrelated issues. Engineers had been lastly in a position to absolutely load the core stage on June 20, however solely after a leaking quick-disconnect becoming was remoted that prevented the move of hydrogen coolant to the core stage engines β€” a requirement for an precise launch.

The quick-disconnect was repaired again within the Vehicle Assembly Building and the SLS rocket was rolled again out to pad 39B on August 16 to prepared the car for launch.

During Monday’s launch attempt, the repaired quick-disconnect appeared to work usually. With the core stage tanks crammed and topped off, liquid oxygen and hydrogen started circulating by means of the engine plumbing to situation them to the ultra-low temperatures of the propellants β€” minus 423 levels Fahrenheit for hydrogen and minus 297 levels for oxygen.

But not one of the engines reached the goal temperature. Engines 1, 2 and 4 obtained to about -410 levels whereas engine No. 3 solely reached about -380 levels. During troubleshooting, engineers diverted all of the hydrogen coolant to engine 3 and it nonetheless didn’t attain the deliberate working temperature.

John Honeycutt, supervisor of the SLS program on the Marshall Spaceflight Center, mentioned engineers suspect a defective sensor is perhaps accountable for the readings from engine 3. Pressure measurements and different information point out good cooling.

“The way the sensor is behaving, it doesn’t line up with the physics of the situation,” he mentioned. “And so we will be looking at all the other data that we have to use it to make an informed decision whether or not we’ve got all the engines chilled down or not.”

By beginning the chilldown process about 45 minutes earlier when the engines are close to ambient temperatures, engineers imagine they’ll handle to chill all 4 engines as wanted.

An analogous process was used throughout the rocket’s check firing final year on the Stennis Space Center. In that case, the engines had been correctly cooled and began usually for a full-duration “green run.”

“As of today, and based on the data that we’ve got, we think we can do something like what we did at the Stennis Space Center to put ourselves in a better position for launch,” mentioned Honeycutt.

As Sarafin mentioned, the group will assessment all the info Thursday earlier than giving final clearance to proceed with a launch attempt.

“The team is in the middle of poring through the data and building the flight rationale,” Honeycutt mentioned. “I don’t have that just yet, but I do expect us to be able to get there.”

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