NASA teams faced “a myriad of technical challenges” as well as unhelpful weather Saturday in the final test of the SLS rocket.
The US space agency announced Tuesday that the latest test of NASA’s giant lunar rocket, the SLS, has been put on hold to allow space for a SpaceX launch this weekend.
The SLS rehearsal, and SpaceX’s launch scheduled for Friday, is taking place in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at Kennedy Space Center launch pads 39B and 39A, respectively. The lunar rocket test must therefore resume shortly after SpaceX liftoff — which should carry three businessmen and a former astronaut to the International Space Station.
The 98-meter SLS missile will remain on the launch pad while waiting. For this final test before it takes off to the moon later this year, all steps leading up to launch, from tank filling to the final countdown — just before the engines launch, must be repeated.
There are no ‘major issues’
It started late Friday afternoon and was originally scheduled to finish Sunday evening, but NASA teams faced “a myriad of technical challenges” in addition to Saturday’s unhelpful weather, Mike Sarafin, NASA president, told Artemis once. Another on the moon on Tuesday.
Among the problems encountered: Four lightning bolts hit the launch pad during a thunderstorm (it was finally determined that the protection system worked as hoped). The valve also refused to open when filling tanks of liquid hydrogen (it was accidentally installed in the closed position).
Mike Sarafin reassured, but these are not “big problems”. “We did not encounter any material defects.” “We are proud to learn from these tests,” he added, even describing the test taken in recent days as “partly successful.”
The Artemis 1 will mark the first flight of the SLS, which took years to develop behind schedule. The Orion capsule at its summit will be propelled to the Moon, where it will be placed in orbit before returning to Earth. There will be no astronauts aboard this first mission yet.
The take-off date must be announced after the dress rehearsal. A window could launch in early June, and Mike Sarafin said on Tuesday he was “not ready to give it up yet.” Another possible launch window is in early July.