The first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket was delayed Monday due to an engine problem.
NASA’s next launch opportunity is Friday, September 2, but it’s not clear if the engine issue can be resolved by then.
Artemis I is a 42-day test flight that will set the stage for future Artemis missions with astronauts.
After a long-awaited preparation for the day NASA’s moon rocket was due to lift off from Earth, the launch of the mission was delayed due to an engine problem.
Just 40 minutes before launch, NASA froze the launch countdown to investigate a suspicious temperature differential on one of the RS-25 engines as they all went through the routine process of purging hydrogen. Engine number 3 did not match its three counterparts.
After waiting for more information for more than an hour, the launch officer finally aborted the launch attempt at 8:35 a.m. ET.
“We won’t launch until it’s right,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said shortly afterwards on NASA’s livestream. “I think it’s just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system, and all of these things have to work.
The rocket, named Space Launch System (SLS), was partially fueled at the time of the problem. NASA said the rocket and its Orion spacecraft were stable, so engineers maintained this partially fueled condition Monday morning to gather more data on the engine issue.
In a blog post after the peel, NASA said that “launch controllers continued to evaluate why a bleed test to bring the RS-25 engines to the proper temperature range for launch on the underside of the core stage failed and timed out.” in the two-hour launch window.”
NASA previously intended to test engine bleeds during a launch rehearsal in June, but was unable to do so due to a hydrogen leak.
The space agency says the earliest launch opportunity is Friday, September 2 at 12:48 p.m. ET — which was one of the backup launch windows in case of technical problems or weather delays. However, engineers will make the decision once they gather more data on the issue.
“That [date] is available to the launch team, but we will await a decision on how to proceed with the plan to address the engine bleed and then proceed from there,” NASA spokesman Derrol Nail said during live commentary Monday. “We’ll have to wait to see what comes out of their test data.”
Meanwhile, the rocket remains on Launchpad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
17 years of work, $50 billion and NASA’s return to the moon are at stake
More than 100,000 visitors were expected to gather near the space center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to see the inaugural launch of the new moon rocket and spacecraft.
NASA spent 17 years and an estimated $50 billion developing the SLS rocket and its Orion spacecraft, according to The Planetary Society.
During the Artemis I mission, NASA aims to fly the Orion crew capsule all the way around the moon – further than any human-made spacecraft has ever flown – before returning to a Pacific Ocean splashdown in October.
There will be no people on board during Artemis I launch. But if the spacecraft successfully completes its mission, NASA plans to place astronauts in the Orion module for another trip around the moon during the Artemis II mission, and then land them on the lunar surface in 2025 as part of Artemis III . This would be man’s first return to the moon since 1972.
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