NASA has more information shared on the ongoing work on its new Space Launch System rocket and the problems encountered in three previous tests. The problems, which NASA has described as annoyances rather than major problems, arose during attempts to conduct a wet dress rehearsal, loading fuel into the rocket.
The first issue to be addressed was a liquid hydrogen fuel leak, which was a relatively simple fix by retightening some bolts that had become loose in the umbilical that carried the fuel from the mobile launch platform to the rocket transported. NASA says its engineers are satisfied the bolts should now stay properly tightened and hold their seal during the refueling process. To be on the safe side, the engineers also relocated a filter that removes any contamination from the fuel to a different location. This filter hadn’t previously caused a leak, but moving it will ensure it doesn’t contribute to a future leak.
Another issue the team worked on was a helium check valve that was stuck open due to a faulty piece of rubber. Engineers weren’t sure where this rubber came from, but they have since found a damaged O-ring seal that has come loose and got stuck in the valve. While engineers were able to replace any support parts that might have been affected, it’s still not clear what caused the O-ring to come loose in the first place. The team will continue to look for the root cause of the problem and test its solution by re-pressurizing the system.
Other work done includes checking if the rocket was damaged by the lightning strikes and thunderstorm during one of the tests – but this was not the case as there are towers on the launch pad that direct lightning away from the rocket to prevent damage avoid kind of situation. NASA has also asked its supplier of the gaseous nitrogen used in the test to upgrade its facilities in time for the next test.
NASA has previously said it does not expect to attempt the wet dress rehearsal again until June at the earliest. In the update, the agency clarified that “NASA will announce dates for the rollout to the pad and the next attempt at the wet dress rehearsal once they start working inside.” [Vehicle Assembly Building] and testing of the nitrogen system is nearing completion.”
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