CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A gas leak that thwarted NASA’s second try to launch its new Artemis 1 moon rocket on Saturday (Sept. 3) will possible take weeks to repair, and should even power the megarocket off its launch pad, area company officers mentioned.
The liquid hydrogen leak occurred Saturday morning as NASA tried to gas its huge House Launch System (SLS) megarocket to launch Artemis 1, an uncrewed take a look at flight to the moon, from Pad 39B right here at Kennedy House Heart (KSC). Regardless of three separate tries to repair the leak, engineers weren’t capable of stem it and in the end stood right down to assess the scenario additional.
That evaluation, and the restore work it finally ends up recommending, will hold Artemis 1 on the bottom for about two extra weeks at a minimal.
“We is not going to be launching on this launch interval,” Jim Free, NASA’s affiliate administrator for exploration methods improvement, mentioned in a briefing Saturday afternoon after the launch scrub.
That launch interval closes on Tuesday (Sept. 6). Artemis 1 will now have to attend till the following window, which runs from Sept. 16 to Oct. 4, to attempt once more. However it might find yourself slipping deeper into October — one other window runs from Oct. 17 to Oct. 31 — as a result of security necessities that would power the SLS rocket again into KSC’s cavernous Automobile Meeting Constructing (VAB) in the course of the repairs. (There’s additionally a possible battle in the course of the earlier window: SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronaut mission to the Worldwide House Station is scheduled to carry off Oct. 3 from KSC’s Pad 39A.)
The primary Artemis 1 launch try, on Monday (Aug. 29), was scrubbed after the crew observed that one of many 4 RS-25 engines that energy the SLS core stage wasn’t cooling down correctly earlier than launch. Analyses quickly traced that subject to a defective temperature sensor, and the crew determined to push forward with one other attempt on Saturday.
Mission crew members additionally efficiently troubleshot a hydrogen leak throughout Monday’s attempt, however the one they noticed on Saturday was totally different: it was loads larger. The Saturday leak occurred close to the bottom of the SLS rocket in what NASA calls a “fast disconnect,” a becoming that connects a liquid hydrogen gas line to the core booster to gas it for launch. The leak occurred after a short “inadvertent” overpressurization of the gas line that was 3 times the appropriate strain, mentioned Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission supervisor.
“This was not a manageable leak,” Sarafin mentioned. The leak led to ranges of flammable hydrogen fuel close to the rocket that have been a number of instances larger than the appropriate vary, he added. It is too early to inform if the leak was attributable to the overpressurization occasion (which was triggered by an errant guide command from the Launch Management Heart) or not, Sarafin mentioned.
“We wish to be deliberate and cautious about drawing conclusions right here, as a result of correlation doesn’t equal causation,” he mentioned.
One factor is obvious, nevertheless: The fast disconnect’s mushy seal gasket will possible have to get replaced. NASA engineers will meet subsequent week to determine if that may be achieved at Launch Pad 39B (which might require a particular enclosure to be constructed across the web site) or if the 322-foot-tall (98 meters) rocket should be rolled again contained in the VAB for simpler entry.
Associated: NASA’s Artemis program of moon exploration
As issues at the moment stand, the SLS rocket must roll again to the VAB quickly in an effort to take a look at its flight termination system, which is designed to destroy the rocket with explosives if it veers off target. The U.S. House Drive, which oversees the Jap Vary for rocket launches, requires NASA to check the security system each 25 days, and that may solely be achieved within the VAB.
The 25-day deadline for Artemis 1 is simply across the nook, so NASA would want a waiver to maintain the moon rocket on the pad if it wished to repair the leak there. It is unclear in the mean time if the mission crew plans to hunt such a waiver.
“I feel we will discuss with the Vary about what the probabilities are,” Free mentioned.
The image will possible begin to change into clearer early subsequent week, after the Artemis 1 crew has had extra time to investigate knowledge and talk about choices, Free and Sarafin mentioned. However they harassed that calling off the launch at the moment was the proper transfer, as did NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson, who additionally participated within the briefing.
“Whereas we do not have the launch that we wished at the moment, I can inform you that these groups know precisely what they’re doing, and I am very happy with them,” Nelson mentioned.
The 2 scrubs will find yourself costing NASA some cash, as Artemis 1 might want to use extra liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant than initially deliberate. However that further expenditure is appropriate, Nelson harassed.
“The price of two scrubs is loads lower than a failure,” he mentioned.
Artemis 1 will ship an uncrewed Orion capsule on a protracted journey to lunar orbit and again. The mission — the primary in NASA’s Artemis program of moon exploration — is designed to point out that each automobiles are prepared to hold astronauts, which is able to first occur on the Artemis 2 flight across the moon in 2024, if all goes in accordance with plan.
Ten tiny cubesats are flying on Artemis 1, to conduct quite a lot of science work and take a look at numerous applied sciences. If Artemis 1 rolls again to the VAB, the cubesats’ batteries might be recharged, however it’s unclear at this level if such a step is required for any of them, Sarafin mentioned.
House.com Spaceflight Editor Mike Wall contributed to this report. E-mail Tariq Malik at [email protected] or comply with him @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab). Comply with us @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab), Fb (opens in new tab) and Instagram (opens in new tab).