NASA will move on to a second launch attempt of Artemis I on Saturday, with the megarocket’s two-hour launch window opening at 2:17 p.m. Eastern Time.
On Monday, the launch was canceled after one of the Space Launch System’s (SLS)’s four RS-25 engines at the bottom of the core stage failed to reach the correct temperature range for launch.
During the first launch attempt, measurements showed that SLS Engine 3 seemed as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the desired minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit, according to SLS program manager John Honeycutt. The three other engines came up just a little short.
Other issues encountered during Monday’s launch window included storms in the area that delayed the start of propellant charging, a leak at the shortcut on the 8-inch line used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen into the core phase. and a hydrogen leak from a used valve to vent the propellant from the intertank of the core stage.
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On Thursday, SLS engineers said all four of the rocket’s main engines were good and that a faulty temperature sensor caused engine 3 to appear too hot. Honeycutt has said the sensor would be “tricky” to attach to the launch pad and that rolling back SLS at Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building could lead to weeks of delay.
In preparation for Saturday, Artemis program manager Michael Sarafin said the team would change the operational procedure for loading propellant into the rocket and try to cool the engines about 30 to 45 minutes earlier in the countdown. Even if the suspected temperature sensor indicates that one engine is too hot, other sensors can be relied upon to make sure everything is working correctly and to stop the countdown if there is a problem, Honeycutt told reporters.
The team will also do some work on the launch pad to prevent another leak in the umbilical cord of the rocket’s hydrogen tail service mast.
The US Space Force Space Launch Delta 45 predicts a 60% chance of favorable weather at the beginning of the two-hour launch window and an 80% chance of favorable weather in the later part of the window.
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If the launch is successful, SLS’s Orion capsule will travel into space for about six weeks before crashing into the Pacific Ocean on Oct. 11. Assuming the test goes well, astronauts would climb aboard for Artemis II and fly around the moon and back as early as 2024. A two-person moon landing could follow by the end of 2025.
|BA||THE BOEING CO.||151.82||-1.84||-1.20%|
|NOC||NORTHOP GRUMMAN CORP.||476.95||-3.37||-0.70%|
|LMT||LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP.||418.57||-4.04||-0.96%|
The SLS and Orion have been in development for more than a decade, with years of delays and rising costs reaching at least $37 billion last year. NASA administrator Bill Nelson has called the Artemis program an “economic engine,” noting that it generated $14 billion in commerce in 2019 alone and supported 70,000 U.S. jobs.
Contractors who have worked on SLS and Orion include Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne.
The 322 feet rocket is the most powerful ever built by NASA, surpassing even the Saturn V that brought the Apollo astronauts to the moon. Astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report