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NASA will try again on Saturday to launch its rocket to the new moon for a test flight after engine trouble halted the first countdown this week. Managers said Tuesday they are changing fueling procedures to deal with the problem.
The 322-foot-long (98-meter) rocket remains on the pad at Kennedy Space Center with an empty crew cabin on top. It is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA.
The Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket will attempt to send the capsule around the moon and back. There will be no one on board, just three test dummies. If successful, it will be the first capsule to fly to the moon since NASA’s Apollo program 50 years ago.
During Monday’s launch attempt, one of the four main engines in the rocket’s core stage was unable to cool sufficiently before the scheduled moments of pre-launch ignition. The other three came up just short.
The cooling operation will be carried out half an hour earlier for Saturday afternoon’s attempt once refueling takes place on the pad, officials said.
John Honeycutt, NASA’s program manager for the rocket, told reporters that the timing of this engine cooling was earlier during a successful test last year, so moving it earlier may be enough.
Honeycutt also questioned the integrity of one engine sensor, saying it may have provided inaccurate data on Monday. He noted that replacing this sensor would mean hauling the rocket back into the hangar, which would mean weeks of delay.
The $4.1 billion test flight is the first shot in NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, named after Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology. Astronauts could strap on a wheel around the moon as early as 2024 and actually try to land on the moon in 2025.