NASA postpones launch of Artemis 1 rocket due to issues during countdown

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA postponed its launch of Artemis I on Monday after problems surfaced during the countdown, delaying the launch of its massive rocket and its long-awaited mission to the moon.

The agency was scheduled to launch its Artemis I mission from Kennedy Space Center during a two-hour launch window that opened at 8:33 a.m. ET, sending the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule into a trip of more than a month. the moon.

But NASA was unable to fix an identified temperature problem with one of the four liquid-fueled engines, discovered with less than two hours before the countdown.

The uncrewed launch marks the debut of the most powerful rocket ever assembled and kicks off NASA’s long-awaited return to the surface of the moon. It is the first mission of NASA’s Artemis lunar program, which is expected to land the agency’s astronauts on the Moon on its third mission in 2025.

In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Space Launch Systemrocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard a moving launch vehicle as it exits High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building for the first time en route to Launch Complex 39B March 17, 2022 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Nasa | Getty Images

Although Artemis I will not carry astronauts or land on the moon, the mission is key to demonstrating that NASA’s monster rocket and space capsule can deliver the promised capabilities. Artemis I was delayed for years, with the program running over budget by billions.

NASA has back-up launch dates scheduled for September 2 and 5, but officials at a Monday afternoon news conference could not say whether the engine issue will be resolved before either other of these dates.

“There’s a non-zero chance we’ll have a launch on Friday,” NASA’s Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters, before adding “we really need time to review all the information, all data”.

The NASA team is set to meet on Tuesday afternoon to identify next steps for Artemis I. If a launch attempt next week isn’t possible, the SLS rocket may need to be pulled from the launch pad during what would probably be a long delay. .

The possibility of moving the rocket off the launch pad is “getting ahead of our reviews of the data,” Sarafin said. “If we can solve this problem operationally on the pad, it will not be necessary.”

Sarafin also noted that the engine temperature issue was a known risk, as the agency had not fully completed a refueling test known as a “wetsuit rehearsal” after four attempts this year.

The agency also discovered a hydrogen leak in the engines and a crack in the material of the thermal protection system that protects the rocket’s core during Monday’s countdown – although these issues were resolved before the launch is canceled for the day.

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