NASA cancels the launch of the Artemis 1 moon rocket for the second time after a fuel leak

NASA cancels the launch of the Artemis 1 moon rocket for the second time after a fuel leak

NASA cancels the launch of the Artemis 1 moon rocket for the second time after a fuel leak

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Joe Skipper / Reuters

NASA canceled its latest attempt to launch the innovative Artemis 1 moon rocket on Saturday after failing to stem a fuel leak discovered during tanking. It was the second time in five days that technical problems had kept the spacecraft on the launch pad.

Mission managers at Kennedy Space Center waited until the end of the countdown to cancel takeoff after the failure of several workarounds to attempt to plug the leak of liquid hydrogen as it was pumped into the center stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. ).

Bill Nelson, head of the US space agency, indicated that the severity of the problem, inside one of the rocket engines, made it unlikely that solutions to the launch pad were possible and that Artemis would likely have to be returned to the building. vehicle assembly for larger repairs.

That would mean that Monday’s next backup launch opportunity is also unsustainable, and the first test flight of humanity’s first manned lunar mission in 50 years will be further delayed, likely until mid-October, he suggested.

“This is part of the space business,” he said. “We will go when it is ready. We won’t go until then, and especially on a test flight because we’re going to underline and test it, and test that heat shield and make sure it’s right before putting four humans on top.

“Although the [next launch] the window opens in early October, I suspect it will be more like the center. “

Nelson said mission leaders would meet later on Saturday to make a final decision.

NASA’s Artemis Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson agreed with a recommendation from the power systems team and canceled the launch at 11:17 local time (16:17 BT), with 2 hours and 30 minutes left in the bill. backwards.

The fuel leak, which emerged during the morning refueling of 2.76 million liters (730,000 gallons) of liquid hydrogen and oxygen, is separate from the engine cooling problem that forced the postponement of the first launch attempt on Monday. Officials said they identified that problem as a faulty sensor rather than a problem with the cooling system or the engine itself.

But the latest setback will be a disappointment for the agency, eager to show the progress made in returning humans to the lunar surface for the first time since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.

This 38-day mission, 40,000 miles beyond the moon and back, is unmanned, but it must be successful before astronauts can embark on a second test flight scheduled for 2024, then a currently planned moon landing on Artemis III. not before the end of 2025.

More than a quarter of a million spectators flocked to the beaches and causeways of the Florida space coast over the Labor Day holiday weekend, eager to witness a moment in history.

Mission officials indicated that the liquid hydrogen leak was inside one of the four RS-25 engines on the SLS, which will become the most powerful rocket to ever leave Earth when it is finally launched.

The engines are recycled from the long-retired space shuttle program and combine to provide 15% more thrust than the Apollo-era Saturn V rockets.

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