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Monday, February 26, 2024

NASA Orders a Second Delay for the Artemis Moon-bound Rocket

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NASA engineers held the countdown at T-40 minutes whereas troubleshooting for greater than an hour. Lastly, launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson referred to as the try a scrub. At a press convention the next day, members of the Artemis crew prompt the obvious engine situation may even have been an indication of a dodgy temperature sensor. “The best way the sensor is behaving doesn’t line up with the physics of the scenario,” mentioned John Honeycutt, the SLS program supervisor.

The launch was then pushed again to this weekend, with countdown procedures beginning up once more early Saturday morning. Anticipating challenges with the propellants, they started the chilldown course of, together with the kickstart check, about 45 minutes earlier through the countdown procedures. The launch crew and climate officer confirmed that the climate was amenable to launch, regardless of a number of intermittent rain showers. They started filling the massive orange gasoline tank with greater than 700,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, supercooled to a frigid -423 and -297 levels Fahrenheit.

However that’s when the hydrogen leak arose, after the oxygen had been largely fueled up. “Hydrogen’s troublesome to work with,” mentioned Jim Free, as affiliate administrator at NASA headquarters, through the post-scrub press convention. The leak appears to stem from a seal within the eight-inch fast disconnect, a becoming used for the liquid hydrogen provide line from the bottom system. Ultimately, it grew to become clear that that becoming must be eliminated and changed.

At 11:17 am Jap time, Blackwell-Thompson made the decision to clean the launch try.

In an trade the place “area is tough” is a cliché, such delays aren’t out of the bizarre, even when the climate cooperates. Throughout NASA’s area shuttle program, some in the end profitable launches needed to be postponed a number of occasions. With the SLS—an enormous, brand-new rocket with quite a few methods to coordinate—the duty turns into much more formidable. NASA has 489 “launch commit standards” that should be met earlier than they are often “go” for launch, Sarafin mentioned at a press convention on September 1.

NASA might have to delay the Artemis launch till mid-October, to return after SpaceX’s Crew-5 launch at a neighboring pad—which has been postponed a number of occasions, too. That mission will convey two NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, to the Worldwide House Station. This would be the first time a Russian will fly aboard a US-made spacecraft since the battle in Ukraine led to tensions between Roscosmos, NASA, and different area businesses.

The crew remains to be contemplating whether or not repairs could be made on the launch pad, or if the rocket have to be rolled again to the Automobile Meeting Constructing. “There’s a threat versus threat tradeoff,” mentioned Sarafin, noting that maintaining the rocket on the pad exposes it to environmental dangers, however that the fast disconnect seal can’t be examined at cryogenic temperatures contained in the constructing.

A rollback itself shouldn’t be with out dangers, for the reason that movement and vibrations can put stress on the rocket. However to attenuate put on and tear, the rocket would transfer no sooner than one mile per hour on a machine referred to as “the crawler.” That rollback choice would guarantee a delay till late October, which may additionally pose dangers for the small spacecraft aboard the rocket, supposed for their very own mini missions. These spacecraft, referred to as CubeSats, have batteries with restricted energy—a few of them could be recharged, however others can’t. “If we have to roll again to the Automobile Meeting Constructing, we will prime off the batteries for a variety of these,” Sarafin mentioned on the press convention. “It’s a part of the method of a given launch interval.”

Nelson emphasised that Artemis 1 is a check flight, and mentioned that in the present day’s pushback shouldn’t be anticipated to have an effect on the general timeline for this system, which goals to ship astronauts into lunar orbit aboard Artemis 2 in 2024, and to land them on the moon aboard Artemis 3 in 2025. (That moon touchdown mission might slip to 2026, nonetheless, in keeping with a March evaluation by the NASA Inspector Basic.)

Whereas the Artemis crew wished to launch in the present day, NASA officers careworn that the rocket is in good situation, and that they’re assured that they’ll have the ability to launch safely within the close to future. “We’re not the place we wish to be, besides the automobile is protected—it isn’t protected in orbit, it is protected on the bottom,” Free mentioned.

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