CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – NASA has postponed any new launch attempt for the Artemis lunar mission until at least Sept. 19 after canceling a launch scheduled for Saturday.
The decision, issued on Saturday morning, is the second time in a week that the launch has been postponed.
The official cleanup announcement from launch manager Charlie Blackwell Thompson came at around 11:19 a.m. ET after several failed attempts to stop a liquid hydrogen fuel leak.
Officials announced Saturday afternoon that they will not attempt another launch during the current launch period, which ends on Tuesday. Instead, they said the earliest they could try to launch it again would be late September.
“We don’t shoot until we think it’s right,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
It should be the space agency’s first attempt to launch this rocket drop Monday morning after a sensor indicated that one of the rocket’s four engines did not appear to have cooled to an adequate temperature of about -420 degrees Fahrenheit.
After studying and troubleshooting the problem, officials said it was clear that the engine was fine and that the sensor was giving a false temperature reading. “We know we have a bad sensor,” said John Honeycutt, program manager for this rocket at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Then on Saturday, while crews were working to refuel the rocket, they repeatedly discovered a liquid hydrogen leak that caused them to stop and start refueling several times.
NASA made three unsuccessful attempts to fix the leak before it was so behind schedule that Blackwell-Thompson eventually waived the launch.
Speaking on Saturday afternoon, Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said the hydrogen transmission line was inadvertently overstressed, but noted that it was too soon to know if that was the cause of the leak.
Officials said they would have to return the missile to the Vehicle Assembly Building unless they could obtain a waiver to remain on the launch pad until the next attempt.
This wasn’t the first time hydrogen leaks had spoiled efforts to refuel this rocket. Similar instances surfaced during rehearsals and the first attempt at launch, although officials described Saturday’s leak as much larger than that. NASA officials are now studying the problem and discussing next steps.
Artemis comes half a century after the last moon landing
It’s been nearly 50 years since The last time the space agency launched A vehicle designed to take people to the moon. NASA named the Artemis new moon program after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, and pledged to put the first woman and first person of color on the moon.
There will be no astronauts aboard the Artemis rocket during its long-awaited first mission, but this flight will be a critical test of how NASA’s new spacecraft performs in space and during its fiery return to Earth.
Once that rocket has successfully lifted off, it will send a crew capsule called Orion on a flight into lunar orbit, about 60 miles from the lunar surface. After more than five weeks, you will return home and land in the Pacific Ocean.
The next flight of this rocket will carry people, but it is not scheduled until 2024. The agency is targeting a lunar landing in 2025 — although most space watchers expect delays, because this rocket is already years behind its original schedule. Congress was wanted It will fly in 2016, just five years after NASA retired its old fleet of space shuttles.
Nelson said Saturday that despite the latest delays in Artemis 1, NASA still plans to launch Artemis 2 in 2024 and Artemis 3 in 2025.
critics Say The Artemis program would be too expensive to be sustainable if NASA relied on this rocket and capsule, which comes at a steep price. The Inspector General for NASA has He said That each of the first few flights will cost over $4 billion, and that doesn’t include billions of dollars in development costs.
Meanwhile, the private company SpaceX, which is currently flying astronauts to NASA’s International Space Station, is developing its own massive spacecraft and craft called Starship. The first launch of this missile is expected soon and is designed to be reusable and inexpensive. NASA already has He said It will rely on SpaceX to develop the Starship as a lunar lander, to carry its astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface.
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