11:15 p.m. ET Saturday: NASA officially scrubbed the Artemis I launch attempt on Saturday. The launch team was unable to troubleshoot a leak in an 8-inch hydrogen inlet leading to the Space Launch System rocket.
Launch officials attempted three troubleshooting actions, and none significantly reduced the leakage of cryogenic hydrogen as it flowed from the ground systems aboard the rocket.
It’s not clear if NASA will attempt to launch the Artemis I mission on Monday or Tuesday, or will have to roll the massive rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for remedial action. The latter seems most likely, but a final decision has not yet been made. Ars will have a full story synopsis later on Saturday.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.—Five days after NASA’s first attempt to fly the Space Launch System’s massive rocket ended with technical problems, the space agency is poised to try again.
A launch team began refueling the rocket Saturday morning just before the sun rose over the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the spaceport. The SLS rocket launching the Artemis I mission around the moon has a two-hour launch window that opens at 2:17 p.m. ET (18:17 UTC).
A successful launch would mark the start of a 42-day mission that will send the Orion spacecraft into lunar orbit and test critical technologies such as a heat shield that will protect the spacecraft during a fiery re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. If the mission goes well, Artemis II would follow in a few years, carrying humans around the moon. A moon landing is planned for later this decade.
So that the rocket can start on Saturday, a lot has to be right. There are three main reasons rocket launches scrub: weather, range issues, and technical issues. The weather is looking pretty good for a Florida summer afternoon, with at least a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions. Starting area problems, such as B. a boat entering restricted waters are a low probability.
That leaves technical problems, and since the SLS is a complex, towering, leaky hydrogen-fueled rocket trying to launch for the first time — well, let’s just say a peel is more likely than not. Before launch, there are no fewer than 489 “Launch Commitment Criteria” that must be met for the SLS rocket, such as: B. Temperatures of the fuels, tank pressures and so on.
“There’s no guarantee we’ll eject on Saturday, but we’ll try,” NASA engineer Mike Sarafin, who serves as mission manager for Artemis I, said during a news conference this week.
Exfoliation on Monday
The launch team decided to scrap the attempt before the launch window opened Monday after a series of issues delayed the countdown and wreaked havoc on launch controls. Storms delayed the start of tank operations; Then there was a leaking hydrogen inlet leading to the rocket and a problem with ice in the booster’s foam insulation.
The biggest problem, however, arose when launch controls attempted to cool down the four RS-25 main engines, which must be at a very cold temperature of -420 degrees Fahrenheit at launch to cope with the extremely cold propellants at engine ignition. A sensor in one of the four engines indicated that it was not cooling to the correct temperature.
At the Launch Control Center, some NASA engineers believed the sensor must be to blame, since there were other signs the engine was cooling down as needed. But time was running out, and given the other issues the start team was working on, it was becoming too much, Sarafin said.
“One of the worst things you can do when you’re in a dangerous state is go further off script,” Sarafin said. “The team did absolutely the right thing on Monday.”
On Tuesday, technicians and engineers worked on the vehicle and its ground systems, gaining confidence that it was indeed a problematic sensor and not a cooldown issue. Key indicators included that liquid hydrogen had flowed through the engine and exited at an expected temperature.
So for the test on Saturday, NASA Not replaced the sensor, which would require a rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building and a delay of at least a month, if not more. If for some reason peeling occurs on Saturday, NASA could have another opportunity to launch the vehicle on Monday or Tuesday before it has to be rolled back for remedial action regardless.
The official webcast for the mission begins Saturday at 11:15 am ET (15:15 UTC). It’s embedded below. The NASA media channel will be covering the refueling process at 5:45am ET (9:45 UTC) Saturday, with live commentary.
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