Hydrogen leak forces weeks-long delay for Artemis moon rocket

NASA’s Star Cross Area Launch System moon rocket was grounded for the second time in 5 days on Saturday, this time by a serious hydrogen leak in a gasoline line quick-disconnect becoming that may delay the flight inaugural of the $4.1 billion multi-week booster, doubtless in October.

The most recent delay was a irritating disappointment for Kennedy Area Heart’s workforce, visitors, and hundreds of space residents and vacationers who lined space roads and seashores to look at probably the most highly effective rocket ever. elevate off, lifting the curtain on the company’s Artemis lunar program.

However confronted with a serious hydrogen leak and with out sufficient time to make repairs earlier than the tip of the lunar launch interval underway on Tuesday, NASA officers had no selection however to order a delay. for the Artemis 1 check flight.

Oxygen vapor billows from the Area Launch System rocket as engineers, working by distant management, tried to cease a hydrogen leak in a quick-disconnect becoming on the base of the rocket the place the ultra-thruster chilly is launched into the primary stage of the thruster. After three unsuccessful makes an attempt, the launch was known as off.


Engineers are evaluating two choices to repair the most recent challenge: changing the suspect becoming parts on the launch pad and performing a mini refueling check with liquid hydrogen to confirm leak-free efficiency. Or roll the rocket to the car meeting constructing and make the repairs there.

Whereas the VAB would supply shelter from the climate and wouldn’t require the meeting of an environmental enclosure to guard delicate parts throughout restore work, engineers wouldn’t have the ability to check the becoming with cryogenic hydrogen. And that is when leaks are most probably to seem.

Both possibility means a launch delay of a number of weeks. The following lunar launch interval begins on September 19 and ends on October 4. However NASA is because of launch a brand new crew to the Worldwide Area Station aboard a SpaceX capsule on October 3 and the company desires to keep away from a battle.

Which means that the launch of SLS will doubtless slip into the subsequent launch window, which opens on October 17 and runs till Halloween, until an answer is discovered to expedite restore work.

“It is an extremely troublesome case,” stated Mike Sarafin, Artemis 1 mission supervisor. “Our objective is to grasp the issue. … We’ll observe up subsequent week once we’ve explored these choices additional.”

Throughout Saturday’s countdown, engineers made three makes an attempt to correctly “set up” a suspect seal within the 8-inch quick-disconnect becoming, however none of them labored. After a “no-go” advice from engineers engaged on the problem, launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson canceled the countdown to 11:17 a.m. EDT.

“We’ll go away when it is prepared,” NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson stated. “We’re not going that far, particularly now, on a check flight.”

The reason for the leak shouldn’t be but clear, however Sarafin stated a valve was inadvertently operated through the first moments of the fueling operation, briefly overpressurizing the strains and the quick-disconnect becoming.

“There was an inadvertent pressurization of the hydrogen switch line that exceeded what we had anticipated, which was about 20 kilos per sq. inch,” he stated. “It got here as much as about 60 kilos per sq. inch. The flight {hardware} itself, we all know it is effective, we’ve not exceeded the utmost design strain.

“However there’s a probability that the delicate items, or the joint of the eight inch fast disconnect suffered some results from it, however it’s too early to inform. … What we do know is that we now have seen a serious leak.”

The Area Launch System lunar rocket atop Pad 39B on Monday whereas refueling for its first check flight. The rocket was grounded by a hydrogen leak within the system that provides propellant to the primary stage tanks.


The objective of the Artemis 1 mission is to launch an unmanned Orion capsule right into a distant orbit across the moon, testing the spacecraft within the deep area atmosphere earlier than returning it to Earth for high-speed reentry. pace and excessive temperature.

If the preliminary uncrewed check flight goes properly, NASA plans to launch 4 astronauts on a shakedown flight across the moon – Artemis 2 – in 2024 and land the primary feminine and subsequent male close to the South Pole. of the moon on the horizon 2025-26. However all of that hinges on a profitable check flight of Artemis 1.

The long-awaited mission should elevate off throughout particular launch durations primarily based on the ever-changing positions of the Earth and Moon, the specified lunar orbit for the Orion spacecraft, and the facility of the SLS rocket to place it on. the best trajectory.

To complicate planning, flight planners need to keep away from putting the solar-powered spacecraft within the shadow of the moon for lengthy durations of time they usually need to guarantee a splash in daylight.

The present launch window closes on Tuesday, the identical day the rocket’s self-destruct system battery certification expires. This alone would have required a return to the car meeting constructing for already scheduled upkeep, because the batteries should not accessible on the launch pad.

NASA tried to launch the SLS rocket on its maiden flight on Monday after 4 repeat countdowns and refueling checks, all of which bumped into a number of technical points, together with hydrogen leaks in varied programs.

Throughout Monday’s launch try, a defective temperature sensor led to uncertainty over whether or not the 4 engines of the SLS rocket’s RS-25 first stage have been receiving correct pre-launch cooling.

Moreover, the identical becoming that leaked on Saturday additionally leaked throughout Monday’s launch check, however the concentrations have been a lot decrease and the engineers have been in a position to get the hydrogen tank eliminated earlier than the engine cooling challenge. doesn’t seem.

It turned out that the motors have been in reality correctly cooled, and a defective temperature sensor was chargeable for the engineers’ deception.

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