January 28, 2023

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NASA cancels re-launch of Artemis moon rocket, citing fuel leak

NASA cancels re-launch of Artemis moon rocket, citing fuel leak

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – For the second time in five days, NASA on Saturday halted the ongoing countdown and postponed a planned attempt to launch the first test flight of its next-generation super rocket, the first. The agency’s Artemis program mission from the Moon to Mars.

The latest attempt to launch the 32-storey Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule has been scrapped after repeated failed attempts by technicians to repair a leak of supercooled liquid hydrogen fuel injected into the vehicle’s primary stage fuel. tanks.

Pre-flight operations were officially canceled for the day by Artemis I launch manager Charlie Blackwell-Thompson about three hours before the two-hour target launch window was scheduled for 2:17 PM EDT (1817 GMT).

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There was no immediate word on a retry time frame for the launch of the mission, dubbed Artemis I. But NASA may schedule another attempt for Monday or Tuesday.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said mission managers will meet later on Saturday to discuss a future launch opportunity, adding that there is a chance the rocket will return to the assembly building for further troubleshooting and repairs.

If that happens, the next launch attempt will be delayed until October, he said during an interview with NASA’s webcast.

“Engineers continue to collect additional data,” NASA said in a separate statement announcing the scrub.

Monday’s initial launch attempt was thwarted by 11 o’clock technical issues that surfaced during the countdown, including a different leaking fuel line, a faulty temperature sensor and some cracks in the insulation foam. NASA officials said these issues had previously been resolved to their satisfaction.

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Launch day delays and technical hurdles are not uncommon for new rockets like NASA’s Space Launch System, a complex rocket with a set of pre-launch procedures that are untested and fully trained by engineers without a hitch.

“This is part of our space program – get ready to scrub,” Nelson said on NASA TV.

Obviously, returning the spacecraft to its assembly building would be necessary if engineers thought the hydrogen leak was too difficult to fix on the platform. But NASA officials haven’t made that call yet.

Moon on Mars

The inaugural flight of the SLS-Orion will mark the launch of NASA’s highly-acclaimed Moon-to-Mars Artemis program, the successor to the Apollo lunar missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

The flight aims to put the 5.75-million-pound craft through its paces on a rigorous test flight, pushing the limits of its design, before NASA deems it reliable enough to carry astronauts on a target flight for 2024.

The SLS is the world’s most powerful complex rocket, and represents the largest new vertical launch system the US space agency has built since the Saturn V launch during Apollo, which grew out of the US-Soviet space race in the Cold War. era.

If the first two Artemis missions are successful, NASA aims to return astronauts to the Moon, including the first woman to set foot on the Moon, as early as 2025. However, many experts believe the time frame is likely to be years behind few.

The last humans to walk on the Moon were the two-man Apollo 17 team in 1972, following in the footsteps of 10 other astronauts during five previous missions beginning with Apollo 11 in 1969.

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The Artemis program eventually seeks to create a long-range lunar base as a springboard for more ambitious astronauts’ flights to Mars, a goal that NASA officials have said will likely take until at least the late 2030s.

The program is named after the goddess who was the twin sister of Apollo in ancient Greek mythology.

The SLS system has been in development for more than a decade, with years of delays and cost overruns. But the Artemis program has also created tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade under the direction of core contractors Boeing Co. (ban) For SLS and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) for Orion.

Although there are no humans on board, Orion will carry a simulator crew of three – one male and two mannequins – equipped with sensors to measure radiation levels and other stresses that astronauts might encounter in real life.

The spacecraft is also set to launch a payload of 10 miniature science satellites, called CubeSats, including one designed to map the abundance of icy sediments on the moon’s south pole.

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Reporting by Joey Rowlett in Cape Canaveral, Florida and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Frances Kerry and Chizu Nomiyama

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.