The launch of NASA’s Artemis “giant moon rocket” has been delayed by more than a month, possibly until October, after a second launch attempt on Saturday (September 3) was called off due to an engine leak. mid.
The massive Artemis 1 rocket — consisting of the Orion capsule atop the Space Launch System (SLS) on the 30th floor — will be returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where the next launch window won’t open until at least early October, NASA announced.
About 400,000 people gathered Saturday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the uncrewed launch of the Artemis 1 rocket.
But as the sun rose over launch pad 39B — the rocket was loading its supercooled liquid hydrogen fuel — an alarm went off, alerting engineers to a seal gap in one of the rocket engines where fuel was leaking.
NASA said engineers had three failed attempts to plug the leak, but they quickly realized there was no quick fix at hand.
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After the launch was canceled, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the rocket’s next launch window would open in early October, but a third launch attempt could come this month as other missions will take priority over Artemis 1 midway through.
The rocket has been preparing for the first of two test trips that will pave the way for a manned lunar landing as early as 2025, marking the first time humans have returned to the moon since 1972 and showing NASA Intended to build a long-term presence there.
“We’ll go when we’re ready,” Nelson said. “We’re not going to go until then, especially now for a test flight, because we’re going to stress that out and test it, and test the heat shield and make sure it’s right before we put four people on top of it. “
Both launch attempts for Artemis 1 were canceled due to technical issues.
The first attempt was canceled because engineers were unable to cool one of the rocket’s four core-stage RS-25 engines to a safe temperature in time for liftoff.
NASA announced that it had fixed the problem, which the agency said was caused by a faulty sensor that falsely reported that the temperature inside the engine was much warmer than it actually was and was closer to being ready for flight. Far.
The reason for the cancellation of the second attempt was a hydrogen fuel leak in one of the rocket’s core stage engines, which was much more serious and required a rollback to fix.
The Artemis 1 mission, which will send the Orion capsule 40,000 miles beyond the moon and back, is part of NASA’s larger Artemis program. Artemis 1 will be followed by Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 missions in 2024 and 2025/2026 respectively.
Artemis 2 will make the same journey as Artemis 1, but with a crew of four, Artemis 3 will send the first woman and first person of color to the south pole of the moon.
Delaying the first launch will not affect the rest of the program, Nielsen said.
The technical difficulties of NASA’s lunar rocket start months before its scheduled launch.
During a wet rehearsal in April, a malfunctioning helium valve and a leak of liquid hydrogen prevented the rocket from being ready to fire, Live Science previously reported.
That led NASA, fearing additional delays, to launch the rocket without a full-scale pre-launch test of the rocket’s assembled engine. But the delay still came.
The setback will increase scrutiny over NASA’s ballooning price tag for the Artemis program.
Artemis has cost more than $40 billion to develop since it launched in 2017 and is expected to reach $93 billion by the end of 2025, according to NASA’s internal auditor, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin’s Office.
“Given our estimated cost per launch of the SLS/Orion system for at least the first four Artemis missions at $4.1 billion, NASA must accelerate efforts to find ways to make its Artemis-related programs more affordable,” Martin told the House of Representatives on March 1. Testified by the Space and Aviation Subcommittee.
“Otherwise, in our view, relying on such an expensive disposable heavy rocket system would inhibit, if not deorbit, NASA’s ability to maintain its long-term human exploration goals for the Moon and Mars.”
Mike Sarafin, the head of the Artemis mission, told reporters that NASA engineers are paying close attention to rocket launches because of the critical role rockets will play in future space operations.
“It’s a very tough business,” Sarafin said. “This is the first test flight of the car. As mentioned, we’re flying when we’re ready. As part of the first test flight, we’re learning the car. We’re learning how to operate the motor vehicle.”
NASA has said the Artemis program is worth the high price because it will spur technological innovation and be a critical next step in human exploration of the universe.
“This time we’re not just going to land [on the moon] leave in a few hours or days – we go back to study, live, work, explore, determine if there is water; so in [moon’s] Antarctica means we have rocket fuel, we have a petrol station there,” Nelson told BBC Radio 4.
“This time, we’ll learn how to live in harsh environments for long periods of time, all for the purpose of our trip to Mars.”
Assuming NASA solves the technical problems, the space agency’s new conundrum could come in the form of a weather problem in the Atlantic Basin.
After a two-month hiatus, this year’s Atlantic hurricane season has begun with two newly named storms — Danielle and Earl. If more, the weather will add a new level of unpredictability to the October flight.
This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.