NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket remains on the launch pad, at least for now.
Artemis 1 will use the new Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket to send an unmanned Orion capsule into lunar orbit and back. NASA attempted to launch the epic mission on Saturday (September 3), but pulled out when it couldn’t troubleshoot a super cold liquid hydrogen leak (LH2) propellant in time for takeoff.
The leak occurred at a “quick disconnect”, an interface connecting the SLS core stage to a line of thruster from the giant rocket’s mobile launch tower. After analyzing the issue for a few days, the Artemis 1 team decided to replace the misbehaving quick disconnect seal, agency officials said in a statement. Tuesday night update (opens in a new tab) (September 6).
This work will be done at Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, where the Artemis 1 stack has been perched for three weeks.
“Performing work on the pad requires technicians to set up an enclosure around the work area to protect equipment from weather and other environmental conditions, but allows engineers to test the repair in cryogenic or super cold conditions. “, NASA officials wrote in the Tuesday Update.
“Running work on the pad also allows teams to collect as much data as possible to understand the cause of the problem,” they added. “Teams can return the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to perform additional work that does not require the use of cryogenic facilities available only on the pad.”
And a return to the VAB may be necessary, whether or not the team wants to make more repairs there. The US space force certified the Artemis 1 Flight Termination System (FTS), which would destroy the rocket if it veered off course during liftoff, for a duration of just 25 days. (Space Force oversees the Eastern Range, the huge rocket launch region that includes KSC.) That deadline will have passed on September 19, when the next launch window for Artemis 1 opens.
Recertification requires testing the FTS, which can only occur in the VAB. NASA officials have said they could seek another waiver to extend the certification period, which would allow Artemis 1 to stay on the pad longer, but it’s unclear at this point whether they will. will do. (Artemis 1 has already received such a waiver, from 20 days to 25.)
Saturday’s scrub was the second for Artemis 1. The first, which happened on August 29, was spurred by a measurement indicating that one of the SLS’s four core-stage motors was not cooling to the correct pre-launch temperature. The Artemis 1 team quickly concluded that the reading was caused by a faulty temperature sensor and decided to follow up with an attempt on Saturday.
The team also fixed an LH2 leak during the August 29 attempt, but this was much smaller than the leak the team is currently working on.
Artemis 1 has two launch windows available within the next two months. The first runs from September 19 to October 4 and the second is open from October 17 to October 31. A rollback to the VAB would almost certainly put September 19 to October 19. 4 window out of reach.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).