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Artemis launch plan: Here are NASA’s next steps

Kennedy Space Center

Photo: NASA/Cory Heston

NASA early Saturday halted its second attempt to launch the Artemis 1 mission into lunar orbit after engineers failed to stop a hydrogen leak that occurred while loading propellant into the fuel tanks of the rocket’s primary stage. After the second launch attempt failed, NASA will likely not make a third attempt in September.

NASA said the hydrogen leak occurred at an “interface between liquid hydrogen”. fuel feeding line and a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.” The SLS is uniquely capable of carrying the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

The second launch of the Artemis 1 mission, a test drone, is scheduled for Saturday at 2:17 p.m. ET (11:17 a.m. PT) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SLS core stage, which is manufactured by Boeing, is 212 feet (64.6 m) high and 27.6 feet (8.4 m) in diameter. Store coolant liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as well as the systems to feed the four stage R2-25 engines.

We see: What is Artemis? Everything you need to know about NASA’s New Moon mission

Artemis It is a multi-stage project that plans to return astronauts to the Moon – and beyond. The Artemis mission will also see the first woman and person of color land on the moon.

NASA’s Artemis mission team had previously canceled Attempt to launch August 29 When the engineers couldn’t cool the four RS-25 . engines to minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit (-250 degrees Celsius) — a necessary step to ensure the core stage is not damaged in the eight-minute flight to low Earth orbit. After reaching low Earth orbit, the core stage separates from the upper stage and the Orion spacecraft.

During the second launch attempt, one of the four engines showed higher temperatures than the others, according to NASA. This so-called “bleed test” occurs before the ultra-cold liquid hydrogen flows into the rocket’s primary stage.

During the first launch attempt, engineers also discovered a Hydrogen leak in the “disinfection canister” But at this point it can be managed by manually adjusting the fuel flow rates.

After Saturday’s failed attempt to launch the Artemis 1 mission, NASA revealed that it had tried three times to plug the leak.

“Engineers saw a leak in a cavity between the ground side and the rocket’s surrounding 8-inch side plates used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen from the SLS rocket. Three attempts to reinstall the seal were unsuccessful,” NASA said in an update today. Saturday evening.

NASA is investigating whether an “unintended command” sent during an early stage of hydrogen loading temporarily raised pressure in the system and may have contributed to the seal leak.

“While in an early stage of hydrogen loading operations called chilldown, when launch control units cool the lines and propulsion system before super-cold liquid hydrogen flows into the rocket’s tank at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, an unintended command that temporarily raised the pressure in the system. While the rocket has remained safe and it is too early to tell if a pressure bulge contributed to the cause of the seal leak, engineers are examining the problem,” NASA said.

We see: NASA’s New Small, High-Powered Laser Could Find Water on the Moon

At about 11:17 a.m. ET, about three hours before Saturday’s launch window opened, Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson chose to cancel the second attempt.

According to Reuters, NASA booked backup launch times for Monday or Tuesday of this week, but concluded it would take longer than that to fix the new hydrogen leak. The next available period is between September 19 and 30, or another window in October, NASA Associate Administrator Jim Frey said at a media briefing.

It will take “several weeks of work” to resolve the current technical problems, said Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager. If this involves bringing the SLS back to the assembly building, then any launch could be delayed until mid-October.

According to NASA Artemis mission availability web page, between October 17 and October 31, there are 11 launch opportunities. A missile cannot be launched on just any day – there are four main criteria that must be met.

  • The launch day must take into account the position of the Moon in its lunar cycle so that the upper stage of the SLS rocket can time the burn-in of the trans-lunar injection to intercept the “slope” of the far-rear lunar orbit.
  • The resulting path must ensure that Orion is not in the dark for more than 90 minutes at a time, so that the wings of the solar array can receive sunlight and convert it into electricity.
  • It must support a path that allows for a planned “skip-entry” technique during Orion’s return to Earth, which sees the spacecraft plunge into the top of Earth’s atmosphere, to slow down and skip the atmosphere again, and then re-enter for the final descent and splashdown.
  • The launch date should mean a release of daylight for Orion to facilitate the spacecraft’s recovery from the Pacific Ocean.
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