NASA counts down to Saturday’s launch for the delayed lunar rocket

NASA counts down to Saturday’s launch for the delayed lunar rocket

NASA counts down to Saturday’s launch for the delayed lunar rocket

The countdown to NASA’s Artemis moon rocket launch continued smoothly in the last 24 hours on Friday, as engineers prepared the giant booster for explosive saturday on a delayed test flight to send an unmanned Orion crew capsule to a I fly around the moon.

Hopefully, the engineers will begin pumping 750,000 gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen fuel into the Space Launch System rocket on Saturday at 6:00 a.m. EDT, arranging a launch attempt at 2:17 p.m., opening a window of two. hours.

Meteorologists predicted a 60% chance of good weather, improving “go” towards the end of the window to 80%. Storm clouds and rain wiped out the spaceport on Friday afternoon, but engineers hoped nature would be more collaborative on Saturday.

Still water in a pond near Pad 39B captures a reflected image of the space launch system's moon rocket on Friday before afternoon storms formed along Florida's space coast.  / Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

Still water in a pond near Pad 39B captures a reflected image of the Space Launch System’s moon rocket on Friday before afternoon storms accumulated along Florida’s Space Coast. / Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

An attempt at launch Monday was canceled when the engineers were unable to confirm that all four of the SLS rocket’s RS-25 first stage engines had been sufficiently cooled by circulating liquid hydrogen to ensure a safe start.

A detailed analysis of the post-scrub data confirmed that the engines were indeed receiving proper thermal conditioning, a requirement to prevent possible bearing damage when powerful turbopumps start spinning for take-off.

“We are on track for a 2:17 pm launch,” said Jeremy Parsons, deputy director of Artemis ground systems at Kennedy Space Center. “The team did a really fantastic job pulling us out of the number one launch attempt, fixing all the problems and putting us in a safe configuration to proceed with tomorrow’s launch attempt.”

Along with the engine cooling issue, the launch team also addressed a leak in a hydrogen umbilical line feeding propellant into the base of the SLS center stage and concluded that a vent line quick release fitting that has also briefly leaked what is acceptable for flight as it is.

Similarly, a post-scrub analysis showed that a crack in the mid-stage spray-on insulation, likely caused by heat stress during Monday’s refueling, posed no significant risk to the rocket.

But engineers will pay close attention to the engine cooling procedure, known as “kickstart purge,” which diverts liquid hydrogen to engines and their turbopumps to condition them at the cold temperatures of cryogenic propellants – minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit for hydrogen.

While the data review showed that all four RS-25 engines were sufficiently cooled on Monday, the kickstart bleed was shifted up in the countdown to Saturday’s launch attempt to allow more time for the kickstart. hardware to cool down. Temperature data from a suspicious sensor on engine 3 will be ignored and engineers will instead rely on readings from other sensors.

Assuming a punctual launch, the upper stage of the SLS rocket will push the Orion capsule out of Earth’s orbit about an hour and a half after takeoff, sending it on a trajectory to circle the moon and into a distant orbit.

After extensive testing and checks, the spacecraft will be returned to Earth for a high-speed reentry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on 11 October.

If the flight goes well, NASA will go ahead with plans to launch four astronauts on a circular flight around the moon in 2024. That mission will be followed by the first astronaut Artemis to land in 2025-26.

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