The next launch attempt for Artemis I may not happen until later this year

This is why it took NASA so long to try another Artemis I launched

The longer delay can be attributed to several factors, including scheduling quirks, possible traffic at the launch site, and NASA’s desire to ensure the latest issue of fuel leaks is addressed.

Recall what happened on Saturday, Sept. 3: Launch officials confidently participated in this weekend’s attempt to launch a rocket known as the Space Launch System, or SLS. But then, when the rocket was loaded with supercooled liquid hydrogen propellant again, it had a big leak. NASA said Tuesday that it will begin trying to correct the problems while the rocket is still on the launch pad.
However, the space agency will eventually still need to push the rocket back to a nearby vehicle assembly building, a 4.2-mile trip that will take about 10 hours to “reset the system’s batteries,” according to a blog post on Tuesday. NASA.

When it comes to setting a new release date, the timing can be complicated.

time is everything

On a given day, when a rocket is allowed to launch, there are specific time spans — or “launch windows” — set aside for time, ranging from about half an hour to several hours per day. But even these windows are not available every day. There’s also the “launch period,” which is the number of days the moon will align with Earth in a way that’s favorable for the mission.

The latest launch period ends on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and NASA has said it’s unlikely the SLS will be ready to fly during that time.

The next launch period runs from September 19th to October 4th. But there’s another potential problem: NASA plans to launch the Crew-5 mission on Oct. 3, which will take new astronauts to the International Space Station on a SpaceX rocket. And NASA will have to work hard to make sure a launch doesn’t come with Another conflict.
Later in October, another launch period will begin, from October 17th to October 31st. This period will provide 11 possible launch windows for SLS. (Note: October 24, 25, 26 and 28 have no available launch times.)

NASA’s exact target time and window will depend on a variety of factors, including how well it coordinates with SpaceX on the Crew-5 launch, and how long the SLS rocket stays on the launch pad while engineers fix the leak. Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development.

super cold fuel

When the SLS rocket fills up, it needs to pump large amounts of supercooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into the rocket’s fuel tanks. When hydrogen is loaded, the fuel starts pumping in slowly and then accelerates in what’s called a “rapid fill”. It was during the rapid filling that the “big leak” occurred — even bigger than the leak NASA discovered during its Aug. 29 launch attempt.

That’s why launch officials want to make sure they identify the fix and the source of the problem before making the next attempt. As of Saturday, one speculation was that a problem with the valve could have caused the hydrogen to overpressurize, pushing it below 60 pounds per square inch instead of the 20 pounds per square inch they had hoped, Michael Sarafin, Artemis Mission manager, said Saturday.

Until Saturday, NASA was trying to resolve several issues it encountered with its first attempt to launch the SLS rocket on Aug. 29. It addressed some leaks that occurred during refueling and assessed the risk of engine cooling system problems and a crack in the foam coating of one rocket fuel tank.

NASA may choose to revisit these issues as it also works on its next launch attempt.

Complicating the selection of the next target launch date is the unstable weather in Florida. With any rocket launch, high winds, lightning or other adverse conditions can cause more delays. Late summer and early fall could also bring hurricanes to the Florida coastline, where the SLS is located.

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NASA is studying these possibilities, and the public can expect more answers in the days and weeks ahead.

This is rocket science

As NASA officials have said before, they hope to convey that these delays and technical issues do not necessarily indicate a major problem with the rocket.

Before SLS, NASA’s space shuttle program flew for 20 years with frequent scrub launches. SpaceX’s Falcon rockets also have a history of being scrubbed due to mechanical or technical issues.

After all, this is rocket science.

“I can tell you that these teams know exactly what they’re doing, and I’m very proud of them,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Saturday. “We’ve tried to stress that this is a test, that a test has some risk, and we’ve highlighted that in every public comment in order to align expectations with reality.”

NASA Deputy Administrator Free added that his team will remain optimistic about the launch attempt that liftoff will happen.

“I’m sure there will be a question, ‘Are we confident?'” he said. “I really like this question because it’s like (asking), ‘Are you confident to get up this morning?”

The mission, called Artemis I, is expected to pave the way for many other moon landings. The Artemis II mission, slated for as early as next year, is expected to follow a similar flight path around the moon, but with a crew. Later in the century, Artemis III is expected to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since NASA’s Apollo program in the mid-20th century.

CNN’s Ashley Strickland contributed to this story.

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