NASA has postponed the resumption of the crucial “wet dress rehearsal” of the Artemis 1 lunar mission by two days to Tuesday (April 12).
The agency had planned to restart the wet dress — a rocket refueling practice run and other essentials Artemis 1 Prelaunch Activities – Today (April 9) at Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
However, the mission team decided to change the testing procedure after noticing a problem with a “helium check valve” that prevents the gas from escaping the giant Artemis 1 space launch system (SLS) Rocket. Helium is used to clean engine lines before loading and unloading fuel, NASA officials said in a statement Artemis 1 update today (opens in new tab).
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The modified wet dress rehearsal is primarily “about refueling the [SLS] Interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) core stage and minimal propellant operations with the ground systems at Kennedy,” agency officials wrote in the update. (The ICPS is the upper stage of the two-stage SLS.)
“Due to the changes in loading procedures required for the modified test, it is planned that wet dress rehearsal testing will resume with station calling on Tuesday, April 12 and refueling on Thursday, April 14,” they added.
This isn’t the first delay for Artemis 1’s wet dress rehearsal. Testing began on April 1st, and the mission team had hoped to wrap things up around 48 hours later, on April 3rd. but several problems emergedincluding a failure in the fan system of the SLS’s giant mobile launch tower and a stuck pressure relief valve on the structure.
These issues initially delayed the test, then halted it when the Artemis 1 team stepped back to allow for Axiom Space’s launch Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station. Ax-1 launched yesterday (April 8) from KSC’s Pad 39A, which is adjacent to 39B, and its departure cleared the way for Artemis 1’s wet dress to proceed.
Artemis 1 will launch an unmanned Orion spacecraft on an approximately month-long mission around the moon. NASA won’t set a launch date until the wet dress rehearsal is complete and teams have analyzed the resulting data, but the mission likely won’t launch until June.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts around the moon in 2024 and Artemis 3 will land a crew near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).