NASA canceled a critical refueling test of its Artemis 1 moon rocket on Sunday over safety concerns with ground equipment on the booster’s mobile launch platform.
Technicians planned to refuel the Artemis 1 Mega rocket called Space Launch System (SLS) with 700,000 gallons of super cold propellant on Sunday (April 3) at Pad 39B of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The refueling test was the final phase of a three-day “wet dress rehearsal” designed to test the launch countdown process for NASA’s Artemis 1 mission to the moon later this year.
But a problem on the Artemis-1 rocket’s mobile launcher, a platform that includes its portal tower and other vital equipment, thwarted the test, NASA officials said. A system that uses fans to pressurize the mobile launcher and keep out harmful gases has apparently failed.
“The fans are needed to positively pressurize the enclosed areas inside the mobile launch vehicle and keep out hazardous gases,” NASA wrote in an update Sunday. “Technicians without this capability are unable to safely load the propellants into the rocket’s core stage and the intermediate cryogenic propulsion stage.”
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With Sunday’s attempt scrubbed, NASA’s next opportunity to test refueling operations could be as early as Monday (April 4), but NASA needs to weigh fuel availability — the SLS rocket uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants – as well as the start section Schedules.
NASA’s Artemis 1 SLS rocket stands on Pad 39B, which is adjacent to Launch Pad 39A, where a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landed on Wednesday (6 Axiom space. The launch of this Ax-1 mission was from a target on April 3. April postponed to make room for NASA’s Artemis 1 refueling test.
Agency officials have said the Ax-1 mission needs to launch by April 7 or so to avoid even more delays in a subsequent launch of SpaceX astronauts for NASA, a mission called Crew-4, which is currently underway is scheduled for April 20 and four other astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA.
“Teams will discuss range and commodity availability as part of the forward plan,” NASA officials said of the Artemis 1 refueling test in the update. A press conference is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) to discuss the agency’s plan.
Artemis 1 is NASA’s first mission to the moon in the Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface by around 2025. The mission will use NASA’s first Space Launch System rocket to launch an unmanned Orion spacecraft around the moon and return to Earth.
If all goes well with the flight, NASA plans to launch a manned Orion spacecraft around the moon in 2023, followed by the manned landing mission Artemis 3 some time later.
The Artemis 1 dress rehearsal in the wet is a crucial step in verifying that the SLS rocket is ready for launch. The Booster is NASA’s most powerful rocket ever and the agency’s first lunar rocket since its Saturn V rockets carried Apollo astronauts into space in the 1960s and 1970s.