A ground test of NASA’s New Moon rocket, which is intended to verify the success of repairs made after two takeoff failures, was successfully conducted in Florida on Wednesday. The next take-off attempt is scheduled for September 27.
“All of the goals we set have been met,” said Charlie Blackwell Thompson, launch manager for the Artemis 1 mission, which will be the first in the program to return Americans to the Moon.
In early September, the launch of the SLS rocket, the most powerful rocket ever built, was called off at the last minute due to a leak observed when filling its tanks with cryogenic fuel – oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Because hydrogen is highly flammable, these leaks must be avoided at all costs.
NASA has made repairs since then, replacing a gasket in the connection between the rocket and the large tubes that feed it with fuel. This seal was clearly damaged by debris of unknown origin.
Wednesday’s test involved refilling the fuel tanks. A slight hydrogen leak was again observed during operations, but this was verified by NASA teams.
The agency said last week that it was targeting Tuesday 27 September for the next take-off attempt in less than a week. A backup date, October 2, was also announced.
“Teams will evaluate test data, along with weather and other factors, before confirming readiness for the next launch opportunity,” the US space agency said in a blog post.
Asked about the question, Charlie Blackwell Thompson did not want to come forward, but said she was “extremely encouraging” during Wednesday’s audition.
To meet the September 27 date, NASA also needs to obtain a waiver from the US Space Force on the battery life of the rocket’s emergency self-destruct system, which is designed to detonate it in the event of a trajectory deviation after liftoff. This period was usually limited to 25 days. However, the missile remained on the launch pad for much longer.
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