The Artemis-I Moon rocket will be back on the launch pad in June
Weeks after being pulled off the launch pad, the space launch system that will power humans’ assent to the Moon will begin another dress rehearsal attempt in June. The Artemis rocket will return to Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida early next month.
The rocket, along with the Orion spacecraft, underwent maintenance after the first attempt at wetsuit rehearsals was marred by several systemic flaws. Nasa said engineers have successfully completed work on a number of items seen in the previous wet-suit rehearsal test.
Currently, inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), engineers have been working on a liquid hydrogen system leak at the tail service mast umbilical, replacing the check valve on the cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) helium gas system and supporting hardware, modifying the umbilical purge of the ICPS boots, and confirming that there are no impacts to Orion as a result of storms and subsequent water intrusions on the launch pad.
“The team also updated the software to address issues encountered when storing liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in previous rehearsal attempts. The purge boots are not flight hardware, but surround an area around the ICPS umbilical, the connection between the mobile launcher and the stage to protect it from the natural environment while the propellant is being loaded,” NASA said in a blog update.
NASA’s Artemis rocket with the Orion spacecraft on board stands on pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. (Photo: AP)
Repairs to the nitrogen gas distribution system were also completed, ensuring the system is ready to support storage operations. During wet dress rehearsal and launch, teams use nitrogen gas to purge the rocket, including its umbilical plates, and to support other operations.
Nasa said the Artemis team is completing some of the upcoming work originally planned in the VAB, which includes opening the Orion crew module hatch and installing some payloads, such as hardware items for the Callisto technology demonstration, a flight kit locker, and container assemblies for a space biology experiment.
Once back on the pad, the final tests will mark the security of the system and designate whether the SLS is fit for launch or not. During the wetsuit rehearsal, once the launch controllers reach the point just before the rocket’s RS-25 engines fire on launch day, they will recycle to the T-10 minute point, then resume the countdown once more after a wait.
The Artemis mission aims to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars.