What happens next?
Technicians will make final preparations, including connecting power and propellant lines to the rocket and launch tower. Although the deployment is faster, the target time for the launch of Artemis I has not changed: Monday, August 29 at 8:33 a.m. EST. You can sign up here to receive a reminder of the launch, as well as other space events, on your personal digital calendar.
What are the Space Launch System and Orion, and why are they important?
The Space Launch System and Orion are two of the essential parts of NASA’s plans to bring astronauts back to the surface of the moon in years to come. Getting there requires a rocket powerful enough to push a large spacecraft out of low Earth orbit toward the moon, about 240,000 miles away. Orion is a capsule designed to carry astronauts on space trips that can last up to a few weeks.
What problems arose during the dress rehearsal?
NASA launched the SLS rocket for the first time on the launch pad in mid-March. In early April, he attempted to perform a “wetsuit rehearsal” of countdown procedures, including loading more than 700,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen rocket propellants. However, technical issues, including a hydrogen leak during three repeat runs, cut the countdown short.
NASA then took the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building to make repairs. In June, the rocket returned to the launch pad for another wet dress rehearsal attempt. This attempt, on June 20, encountered a different hydrogen leak, in a fuel line connector to the rocket’s booster stage. However, the propellant tanks were fully filled for the first time, and the controllers were able to continue the repeat until the countdown ended with 29 seconds remaining. Originally, the goal was to stop the countdown with just under 10 seconds, when the engines would start for an actual launch.
Despite the leak, NASA officials decided that all critical systems had been sufficiently tested and declared the test a success. The rocket returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building once again for final preparations, including installation of the Flight Termination System, which would detonate the rocket if there were any problems during launch and eliminate the possibility of s crash in a populated area.
The flight termination system batteries, installed Aug. 11, normally only last 20 days, but the part of the United States Space Force that oversees launches from Florida has granted NASA a waiver that extends the period to 25 days. This allows for the August 29 launch date as well as September 2 and September 5 save opportunities.
NASA hopes to have fixed the hydrogen leak, but it won’t know for sure until the August 29 countdown, when the thruster line will be cooled to ultra-cold temperatures, which cannot be tested in the vehicle assembly building.