NASA postpones dress rehearsal for new mega rocket

Today NASA suspended the last major test of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket after pressure problems prevented technicians from safely loading propellant into the rocket. The test — known as the wet dress rehearsal — has been pushed back to no earlier than Monday, April 4, NASA announced in a post on the Artemis I Live blog.

“Teams have decided to scrub tank operations for the wet dress rehearsal as they are no longer able to pressurize the mobile launch vehicle,” NASA said. Some fans on the mobile launch vehicle – the platform that supports the rocket until launch – were unable to maintain the positive pressure that is critical to keeping out dangerous gases. As a result, NASA technicians could not “safely continue” the fuel loading process.

This type of dress rehearsal gets the “wet” label because it’s essentially a run-through of all the procedures NASA must perform when the first actual launch of SLS occurs, including filling the 322-foot rocket with 700,000 gallons of propellant. In a news conference Sunday night, NASA said its team is currently on the launch pad trying to fix the problem. The agency says it is on track to resume wet dress rehearsal tomorrow.

The test originally began April 1 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and was scheduled to conclude on Sunday. NASA faced inclement weather Saturday night as lightning struck the towers surrounding the SLS launch pad. Jeremy Parsons, deputy program manager at NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems, said one of those strikes was one of the strongest NASA has seen since installing the lightning protection system. “It hit the catenary wire that runs between the three towers,” Parsons said wrote in a tweet from the EGS Twitter account. “The system worked very well and kept SLS and Orion safe.”

The SLS is designed to carry the Orion spacecraft around the moon on an unmanned mission as part of the Artemis program, a flight called Artemis I. This mission, tentatively scheduled for this summer, is intended to prepare the rocket – and NASA – for the mission that will eventually take humans to the lunar surface.

You can check NASA’s live blog as well as the agency’s blog for updates on the test Twitter.

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