Miami, Sep 3 – The start of the historic Artemis I mission, which will pave the way for a return of NASA and its astronauts to the Moon, was postponed for the second time due to technical problems and NASA has not yet decided whether to make a new launch attempt soon or to give themselves more time to check out the SLS rocket.
A leak of liquid hydrogen during the process of tanking the rocket that, despite the “multiple efforts” made, could not be solved, forced this Saturday to stop the countdown about 3 hours before the scheduled time for the launch window to open.
According to the calendar of this unmanned mission, the next date for the takeoff from Cape Canaveral (Florida) of the SLS rocket with the Orion spacecraft integrated in the upper part is this Monday.
If that attempt failed, there would still be the possibility of Tuesday, according to that calendar that sets the next launch period from September 19.
In any case, it will be the mission team, led by Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, who is scheduled to meet this afternoon, who will decide when to try again, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a message on NASA TV. .
“They’re going to see if there’s still a chance now or they’re going to have to go back to the vehicle assembly building,” he added.
The NASA administrator, a former Democratic senator from Florida, added: “We’ll go when we’re ready. This is part of the space program — be prepared for a lot of failed attempts.”
TRY AGAIN OR CHECK BEFORE
The window for the launch of this Monday, of 90 minutes, will open at 17:12 local time (21:12 GMT) and that of Tuesday at 18:57 local time (22:57 GMT), of only 24 minutes.
If the SLS rocket, with the Orion spacecraft in the upper cone, is still on the ground after Tuesday, it will have to return to the Vehicle Assembly Building to retest its flight system.
But the mission team may decide not to make any more launch attempts for now and move the rocket from the launch pad to the Vehicle Assembly Building for repair and retesting.
The first launch attempt took place on August 29, but was canceled due to a failure in one of the 4 RS-25 engines of the powerful SLS rocket, which is 98 meters high and cost about 4.1 billion dollars.
On the problem detected this Saturday, NASA explained that “the teams found a leak of liquid hydrogen while loading the propellant in the central stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.”
The “multiple efforts” to solve the problem by repositioning the seal did not work, as was verified by pumping fuel back into the rocket, so “the launch director canceled the attempt scheduled for today,” the space agency said. in a message on the Artemis mission website.
The objective of the first Artemis mission is to test the capabilities of the SLS and the Orion spacecraft, before a manned voyage originally planned for 2024, which will be followed by a third in which for the first time since 1972 American astronauts, including a woman and a person of color will step on the lunar surface.
A HISTORICAL MISSION
The first Artemis mission has a duration of 37 days, 23 hours and 53 minutes, a period in which, removing round trips, the Orion spacecraft will be orbiting the Moon.
Once it leaves lunar orbit, Orion, with capacity for 4 astronauts and the most powerful spacecraft ever built, capable of reaching a speed of 24,500 miles per hour (39,428 km/h), will begin its return journey.
After re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, it will fall into the Pacific Ocean, west of San Diego (Southern California).
When Orion returns to Earth, it will have traveled 1.3 million miles (more than 2 million kilometers).
As happened on August 29, when a first attempt had to be cancelled, the so-called “Space Coast”, the region where the space center is located, was filled this Saturday with visitors eager to watch the launch.
A media outlet in the area estimated that some 400,000 people moved to the area of the base area and the Kennedy Space Center. Some could still see their wish fulfilled if the launch takes place this Monday, a holiday in the US because it is Labor Day.