Look to CNN for live coverage from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday afternoon. Space correspondent Kristin Fisher will bring us instant reports from the launch, along with a team of experts.
The launch window opens at 2:17 p.m. ET and closes at 4:17 p.m. ET on Saturday. Currently, weather conditions are 60% favorable during the launch window, according to weather officer Melody Lovin. She doesn’t expect the weather to be a “showstopper” for the launch.
The Artemis I stack, which includes the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft, continues to be on Launchpad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
If there’s no guarantee of a launch on Saturday, “we’ll try,” Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said at a Thursday night news conference. And while the launch team will take on a bit more risk before the launch attempt, these are acceptable risks that the team is comfortable with, Sarafin said. The Artemis I mission is uncrewed.
One of the areas where the team is taking on the most risk is the conditioning of the No. 3 engine, which helped scrub Monday’s launch attempt. Another is a crack in the mid-stage intertank foam that could break off and hit part of the solid rocket booster, but the team estimates the odds of that to be very low, Sarafin said.
It’s “a marginal increase in risk,” Sarafin said, but “we’re clearly ready to fly.”
“We had a plan for the August 29 launch attempt. It used the sensors to help confirm proper thermal conditioning of the engines. We had formed that plan, and then we ran into some other issues,” Sarafin said.
“We were out of the script in terms of a normal refueling operation, and the team did a fantastic job handling a dangerous condition. One of the worst things you can do when you find yourself in a dangerous condition is just to go there. even further from the script.”
After reviewing the data, the team has a plan for moving forward.
Work has been completed on the launch pad to address two different hydrogen leaks that occurred on Monday. The team also performed a risk assessment of the engine conditioning issue and a foam crack that also appeared, according to NASA officials.
On Monday, a sensor on one of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines, identified as Engine No. 3, indicated that the engine could not reach the proper temperature range required for the engine to start on liftoff.
Engines must be thermally conditioned before super cold propellant passes through them prior to liftoff. To prevent the engines from experiencing temperature shocks, the launch controllers increase the pressure of the central stage liquid hydrogen tank to send some liquid hydrogen to the engines. This is called “bleeding”.
Now the team has determined it was a bad sensor providing the reading.
“We’ve had time to go back and look at the data and compare many data sources and do an independent analysis that confirmed this is a bad sensor,” said John Honeycutt , SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. , Alabama. “We’re getting good quality propellant through the engine.”
On launch day, the team will ignore the bad sensor, said SLS chief engineer John Blevins.
The rocket’s automated launch sequencer checks temperature, pressure and other parameters. The bad sensor, which is not part of the sequencer, is not considered a flight instrument, Blevins said.
The team plans to start the bleeding earlier in the countdown than it happened on Monday. The countdown to launch will resume Saturday at 4:37 a.m. ET during a scheduled wait. This is when mission leaders receive a weather briefing and decide whether the team should proceed with loading propellant into the rocket. The bleeding should occur around 8 a.m. ET, said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program.
There is no longer a need for a two-day countdown, as in the first launch attempt, “because many of the configurations needed for launch are already in place”, according to NASA.
“We have to show up, we have to be ready and we have to see what the day has in store for us,” Sarafin said.
If the mission launches on Saturday, it will travel around the moon and dive into the Pacific Ocean on October 11.
There is still a save opportunity for the launch of the Artemis I mission on September 5 as well.
The Artemis I mission is just the start of a program that will aim to bring humans back to the Moon and eventually land crewed missions on Mars.