The longer delay can be attributed to several factors, including scheduling quirks, possible traffic at the launch site, and NASA’s desire to ensure it has resolved the final fuel leak issues.
And when it comes to setting a new launch date, the timing will be complicated.
Timing can be everything
The last launch window ended on Tuesday, September 6, and NASA had said there was no way the SLS would be ready to fly during that window.
NASA’s exact target period and window will depend on a variety of factors, including how it can coordinate with SpaceX regarding the launch of Crew-5 and how long the SLS rocket remains on the launch pad while the engineers are working on the leak problem, according to Jim Free, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems development.
Super cool fuel
When the SLS rocket is fueled, it requires huge amounts of supercooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to be pumped into the rocket’s tanks. When charging hydrogen, the fuel begins to pump slowly, then picks up its speed in what is called a “fast fill”. And it was during this rapid fill that a “big leak” occurred – even larger than the leaks identified by NASA during the August 29 launch attempt.
That’s why release managers want to make sure they identify a fix and the root of the problem before making the next attempt. On Saturday, it was speculated that a problem with a valve may have caused the hydrogen to over-pressurize, putting it under 60 pounds per square inch of pressure rather than the 20 pounds per square inch they were hoping for, Michael Sarafin, Artemis Mission Manager , said Saturday.
NASA may choose to take another look at these issues as it also works toward the next launch attempt.
The precarious weather in Florida further complicates the selection of the next target launch date. For any rocket launch, high winds, lightning, or other adverse conditions may force further delays. Late summer and early fall can also bring hurricanes to the Florida coast where SLS is located.
NASA is working on the possibilities, and the public can expect more answers in the days and weeks ahead.
As NASA officials have said before, they hope to convey that these delays and technical issues do not necessarily indicate a significant problem with the rocket.
It is, after all, 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 have tried to emphasize that this is a test and that a test carries some risk, and we have hammered that into every public comment we have had in order to align expectations with reality. “
Free, NASA’s associate administrator, added that his team will still undertake a launch attempt optimistic about liftoff.
“I’m sure there will be a question of ‘Are we confident? “”, Did he declare. “I actually love that question because it’s like (asking): ‘Are you sure you were going to get out of bed this morning?’
This mission, called Artemis I, should pave the way for many other missions to the Moon. The Artemis II mission, scheduled for next year, is expected to follow a similar flight path around the moon but will have a crew on board. And later this decade, 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.