An engine-cooling problem forced NASA on Monday, Aug. 29 to postpone for at least four days the debut test launch of the colossal new rocket ship it plans to use for future astronaut flights back to the moon, more than 50 years after Apollo’s last lunar mission — the Artemis program.
The U.S. space agency cited a problem on one of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s main engines, as launch teams began a test that would have cooled the engines for liftoff. One of them would not cool as expected.
“We don’t launch until it’s right,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a webcast interview just after the liftoff was scrubbed. “It’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all those things have to work. And you don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.”
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The delay was called at 08:35 a.m. EDT (1235 GMT), two minutes after the targeted launch time, as the 32-story-tall, rocket and its Orion capsule awaited liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The mission, dubbed Artemis I, calls for a six-week, uncrewed test flight of Orion around the moon and back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific.
NASA did not give a new launch date for the two-stage rocket but said its first available opportunity was Friday, Sept. 2.
Senior NASA officials declined to set a precise time frame for retrying a launch of the mission, dubbed Artemis I. But at a news briefing hours after the aborted countdown they said a second launch attempt was still possible as early as Friday, depending on the outcome of further data review.
If engineers can resolve the issue on the launch pad in the next 48 to 72 hours, “Friday is definitely in play,” Michael Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager told reporters.
“So you’re you’re asking about the likelihood of Friday. So the combination of not being able to get the engine 3 chill down and then the vent valve issue that they saw at the inner tank really caused us to pause today. And we felt like we needed a little, little more time. There was also a series of weather issues throughout the window. We would have been no go for weather at the beginning of the window due to precipitation. And later on in the window, we would have been no go for lightning within the launch pad area,” Sarafin explained.
“We just need a little bit of time to look at the data. But the team is setting up for for a 90, 96 hour recycle,” he said, noting that NASA is “preserving the option for Friday.”
“They’re replenishing the commodities out at the at launch complex 39 B, you’ll see some of those activities tomorrow.”
The mission calls for a six-week, uncrewed test flight of the Orion capsule around the moon and back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific.
The planned journey will mark the kickoff of NASA’s highly vaunted moon-to-Mars Artemis program, the successor to the Apollo lunar missions of the 1960s and ’70s.
By NASA via Reuters. Production: Pavithra George