NASA’s second attempt to refuel its megarocket for the Artemis 1 lunar mission hit another snag on Monday (April 4) due to a stuck valve on the ground equipment.
A stuck vent valve high up on the mobile launch vehicle that supports the Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39B forced NASA to scrub the Artemis 1 test after refueling began Monday , agency officials said.
“Due [to] Because of the problem with the vent valve, the launch manager canceled today’s test,” said Jeremy Parsons, NASA associate director of ground systems. wrote in a Twitter update after peeling. “The team is preparing to offload LOX (liquid oxygen) and will begin discussing how quickly the vehicle can be turned around for the next attempt.”
The stuck vent valve was located at the 49-meter level of the mobile launch vehicle, which serves as both the portal and launch platform for the SLS, according to Parsons.
Monday’s refueling attempt was NASA’s second attempt to fill the core stage of Artemis 1’s 322-foot (98 m) tall SLS rocket with 700,000 gallons (2.6 million liters) of supercooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for propellant, the agency said referred to as a “wet dress rehearsal.” The test, which began on April 1, includes a full launch countdown rehearsal, including refueling.
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NASA attempted to refuel the Artemis 1 lunar rocket on Sunday (April 3) but stopped before propellant loading began due to a problem with the mobile launch vehicle’s pressurization, which keeps hazardous gases out of enclosed areas where technicians work. By Monday, technicians had loaded about 50% of the liquid oxygen needed for the refueling test before settling down for the day, Parsons wrote on Twitter.
Monday’s test originally aimed to simulate a launch countdown that would end at 2:40 p.m. EDT (11840 GMT), but delays related to the rocket’s nitrogen gas supplier stalled that work. With that issue resolved, NASA targeted a simulated launch time of 6:02 p.m. EDT (2202 GMT) before the stuck valve triggered the peel.
It’s unclear whether NASA can recycle for a third refueling attempt on Tuesday (April 5) or have to step back to replenish its fuel supplies and give its pad crews and launch controllers time to rest. Meanwhile, a private mission to the International Space Station is waiting in the wings for flight.
SpaceX intends to bring four private astronauts to the International Space Station on the Ax-1 mission for Houston-based company Axiom Space. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the mission from Pad 39A, which is located near Pad 39B of Artemis 1.
SpaceX and Axiom Space originally planned to launch the Ax-1 mission on April 3, but pushed it back to April 6 to give NASA time for Artemis 1’s wet dress rehearsal. After delays in refueling NASA’s Artemis 1 on Sunday, SpaceX postponed the launch again, this time to Friday (April 8).
Whether the Ax-1 mission stays on April 8 or is delayed again depends on NASA’s plans for the Artemis-1 refueling test. In another launch traffic issue, SpaceX is preparing to deliver four more astronauts to the space station for NASA on April 20 as part of its Crew 4 mission. This flight will bring three NASA astronauts and one European Space Agency astronaut to the orbiting laboratory.
But Crew-4 has to wait for the launch of the Ax-1 mission (because both are launching from Pad 39A), which in turn is awaiting completion of the Artemis 1 wet dress rehearsal by NASA. From the looks of it, Crew-4 is currently scheduled to launch on April 20th and has already experienced delays in the schedule of its own.