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A fuel leak and then an engine problem during final launch preparations led NASA to scrub the launch of its massive Artemis I new moon rocket on Monday during a shakedown flight with three test dummies on board. The next attempt to start will happen on Friday at the earliest.
As precious minutes ticked by, NASA repeatedly stopped and started refueling the Space Launch System rocket with nearly 1 million gallons of supercooled hydrogen and oxygen due to a leak of highly explosive hydrogen at the same location where the leak occurred during the general test. back in the spring.
The launch of #Artemis I is no longer happening today as teams work through an issue with an engine bleed. Teams will continue to gather data, and we will keep you posted on the timing of the next launch attempt. https://t.co/tQ0lp6Ruhv pic.twitter.com/u6Uiim2mom
— NASA (@NASA) August 29, 2022
Then NASA ran into new problems when it was unable to properly cool one of the rocket’s four main engines, officials said. Engineers continued to work to collect data and determine the source of the problem after the launch delay was announced.
The rocket was set to launch on a mission to carry a crew into orbit around the Moon. The launch marks a milestone in America’s quest to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo program ended 50 years ago.
NOW: NASA Administrator @SenBillNelson speaks about today’s #Artemis I launch attempt. https://t.co/l65YUBc4KI
— NASA (@NASA) August 29, 2022
The 322-foot-long (98-meter) spacecraft is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built, surpassing even the Saturn V that carried the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
As for when NASA might make another launch attempt, launch commentator Derrol Nail said the issue is still being analyzed and “we’ll have to wait and see what comes out of their test data.”
There were no astronauts inside the Orion rocket cabin. Instead, test dummies equipped with sensors to measure vibrations, cosmic rays and other conditions were strapped in for a six-week mission that was expected to end in October with the sinking of the capsule in the Pacific.
Although no one was on board, thousands of people jammed the shore to see the rocket rise. Vice President Kamala Harris was expected to be among the VIPs.
The launch, when it occurs, will be the first flight in NASA’s 21st century lunar exploration program, named Artemis after Apollo’s mythological twin.
Assuming the test goes well, astronauts will climb aboard for a second flight and fly around the moon and back as early as 2024. By the end of 2025, two people could land on the moon.
The problems Monday were reminiscent of NASA’s space shuttle era, when hydrogen fuel leaks disrupted the countdown and delayed a number of launches in the 1990s.
Later in the morning, NASA officials also noticed what they feared was a crack or some other malfunction on the core stage — the large orange fuel tanks housing the four main engines — but later said it appeared to be just an ice build-up.
Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and her team also had to deal with a communication problem involving the Orion capsule.
Engineers were trying to make sense of an 11-minute delay in the communications lines between launch control and Orion that occurred late Sunday. Although the problem was fixed Monday morning, NASA needed to know why it happened before committing to a launch.