NASA chooses to fix SLS Megarocket hydrogen leak on launch pad

SLS on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SLS on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
photo: NASA

NASA is preparing to replace a defective seal linked to the hydrogen leak that led to the SLS’s second scrub launch attempt on Saturday. Repairs will take place on the launch pad, which is ideal from a testing standpoint, but NASA still needs to transport the giant rocket back to the assembly building to meet safety requirements.

The technician will replace the seal on the quick disconnect, This is an interface that connects the liquid hydrogen fuel line on the mobile launcher to the core stage of the Space Launch System, according to a brief NASA presentation statement. The team will also check the plate coverings on other umbilicals to rule out Hydrogen leaks occur at these locations. “There are seven main umbilical lines, and each line may have multiple connection points,” NASA explained.

NASA is attempting an uncrewed lunar landing and return mission in preparation for a human lunar landing later this century.butEarly stages of uring start try On September 3, an inadvertent command briefly raised pressure within the system, possibly damaging some components.Uncontrolled hydrogen leak caused scrub– The second time in a week. earlier The scrub was also damaged by a hydrogen leak on Monday, August 29, although engineers were able to fix it. Ultimately, this is a faulty sensor doomed first launch attempt.

The unflighted SLS rocket remains in a safe configuration, towering over Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.NASA is looking to launch Artemis 1 questin which the rocket will send an unmanned Orion spacecraft on a circumnavigation Moon and back. The first launch period, which ran from Aug. 23 to Sept. 6, has ended, forcing a moratorium on operations.The space agency must now prepare 322 feet (98 meters)) used in the third Artemis 1 launch attempt, the date of which has not been announced.

Technicians are planning to place a temporary enclosure around the rocket’s base to protect the hardware from Florida weather. One benefit of working directly on the pads is that engineers will be able to test repairs in low temperature conditions. During launch preparations, liquid hydrogen is pumped through the system at ultra-low temperatures reaching -423 degrees Fahrenheit (-253 degrees Celsius). This, combined with the increased high pressure, can cause components to shrink and warp, leading to unnecessary and dangerous leaks, especially around seals.

as propellant, Hydrogen is effective but notoriously difficult to control. Hydrogen leaks were a very common source of scrubbing in the space shuttle era, and now SLS is Also powered by a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygenappears to be suffering from the same technical difficulties.

Engineers are thoughtful Return the SLS to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for necessary repairs But choose to work on the mat. The VAB will provide a more controlled working environment, but cannot replicate the low temperature conditions required for testing (tests within the VAB must be run at ambient temperature). “Working on the mat also allowed the team to collect as much data as possible to understand the cause of the problem,” NASA added.

SLS may have to return to the VAB, repaired or not. Eastern Range, a branch of the U.S. Space Force, requires periodic certification of the rocket’s flight termination system. NASA has already received a waiver extending the certification period from 20 to 25 days, but it is unclear whether the space agency will ask for a second waiver, which would be unusual. Eastern Range oversees launches from the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and is committed to ensuring the safety of the public.

At a news conference Saturday, Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said, “It’s not our decision — it’s Range’s decision.” He added that Range’s waiver could keep the rocket on the launch pad, “but Unlikely.” So, under the constraints of the Eastern Range, until we hear from NASA about the second waiver, the rocket must Return to VAB before the next launch period.

A third launch attempt in late September or early October remains slim. The next phase starts on September 19th and ends on October 4th, with no chance of a September 29th and 30th launch. However, for it to work, NASA must complete its latest fix, run tests, push the SLS back to the VAB for recertification (which involves a very short confidence test), and then push it back to the launch pad. It’s possible, but teams on the ground will have to work hard to make it happen.

Otherwise, a third launch period will begin on October 17 and end on October 31, excluding launches on October 24, 25, 26 and 28. Two other periods, one in November and one in December, exist in the current calendar year.

There’s still plenty of time before the SLS rolls out in 2022, but it all depends on how quickly engineers can master the complex system. SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA and is a key component of the space agency Artemis Projectwhich seeks a sustained and long-term human presence on and around the Moon.

more: What to Know About the Lunar Gateway, NASA’s Future Lunar Orbiting Space Station.

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