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

Artemis I: NASA plans two launch dates for late September

NASA is trying to solve a rocket fuel leak known as the Space Launch System, or SLS. During the final launch attempt Saturday, Sept. 3 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rocket suffered a major leak while using ultra-cold liquid hydrogen fuel.

While the rocket is still on the launch pad, NASA is looking to fix the problem by repairing and replacing some seals before testing to ensure all leaks are contained, NASA officials said in a Thursday news conference. blocked.

It’s unclear how long this will take.

Then there’s the issue of authentication. The U.S. Space Force, a branch of the military, still oversees all rocket launches on the U.S. East Coast, including NASA’s launch site in Florida, an area known as the “East Range.”

Officials at the range are tasked with ensuring that any launch attempt poses no risk to people or property. That means East Range also has to give NASA a thumbs up, and the rocket’s flight termination system — which will destroy the rocket in midair if it veers off course and starts heading in a populated direction — is ready to fly .

However, the system relies on batteries, which, under current rules, must be charged at a nearby indoor facility ahead of the new proposed launch date.

NASA wants a waiver from the rule. But it is unclear when or if the request will be granted. If NASA doesn’t get the waiver, the SLS rocket will have to roll off the launch pad and return to a nearby vehicle assembly building, causing further delays.

“If they don’t think it’s the right thing to do, we’re obviously going to back up and back out and look for our next launch attempt,” Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said in a Thursday news conference.

“But we’re still going ahead with the tank test,” he said, referring to NASA’s planned tests to fix the hydrogen leak while the rocket is still on the launch pad.

The Space Force Eastern Range said in a statement only that it “will review NASA’s request.” It declined to share details about the timing.

On Thursday, however, NASA did provide some insight into the discovery of the leak.The space agency has revealed Artemis mission manager Michael Sarafin said Saturday that the “accidental pressurization of the hydrogen line” brought it below 60 pounds per square inch, rather than the 20 pounds per square inch they had hoped for.

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

It’s unclear whether overpressurization was the cause of the leak, but NASA does know why overpressurization occurred in the first place — and there was human error involved.

“Our management team [the operator in charge of overseeing the process] Because we had some manual program changes between Monday’s attempt and Saturday’s attempt,” Free said. “We had practice sessions during the week, but they only had a few chances. So, as a leadership team, we’re not putting our operators in the best position we can have, and we’re very reliant on our credit team. “

According to Free, this overpressure is definitely something NASA wants to avoid. NASA is looking for a “gentle, gentler loading process, if you will.”

At the moment, the timeline for my launch of Artemis has a lot of waiting games and a lot of “what ifs”. The ultimate goal of the project is to get the SLS rocket into orbit and deploy the Orion capsule, which was built for astronauts but will fly mid-air on this test mission. The capsule will continue to orbit the moon before traveling another 239,000 miles to return home.

The Artemis I mission is just the beginning of a plan to send humans back to the moon and eventually a crewed mission to Mars. Problems in the first two scrubs did not cause any delays to future Artemis missions, Nelson said.

CNN’s Kristin Fisher and Ashley Strickland contributed to this article.

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