NASA is moving forward with an attempt to launch the Artemis moon while watching the storm

Agency officials said Friday that NASA is pressing ahead with the attempt to launch the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft on Tuesday, as they watched a storm that could force them to roll the rocket back into the assembly building and give up its launch. moon for the third time.

While Two previous attempts Marred by fuel leaks, including a large leak earlier this month that NASA engineers were unable to contain, NASA officials said they are now confident they have fixed the problem after conducting a refueling test earlier this week.

Still, there is a file Tropical depression in the Caribbean It could threaten Florida’s space coast and force NASA to delay launch again. NASA said a decision on that could come Friday night or Saturday, because it takes two days to get the car back to the assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center.

The likely path of the storm “has changed dramatically over the past few days,” said Tom Whitmaier, NASA’s deputy associate administrator. “It’s not a specific storm. We really want to keep trying to get as much information as possible so we can make the best hardware decision possible.”

He said that NASA has had a lot of experience from the space shuttle days dealing with storms that rolled down the Florida coast, especially at this time of year. The space agency didn’t want to cancel the launch prematurely in case the storm’s direction changed.

“We have a step-by-step approach to looking at the weather, and figuring out which direction it’s going,” he said. “I don’t think we cut it too close. I think we cut it in time.”

after, after Years of setbacks and delaysNASA officials are eager to launch the SLS rocket for the first time, which will mark the first major step in the Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon. This launch will have no astronauts on board, and is seen as a test vehicle before the space agency flies humans.

But NASA had a series of problems getting the rocket off the ground. At the end of August, NASA said a bad sensor He forced them to give up trying to fly. Then, on September 3, it had to rub the launch again after it could no longer contain a large liquid hydrogen leak.

This week, NASA tested fixing the leak by refueling the rocket using a “gentle and gentler” approach. But even with a more precise process of loading fuel slowly and under easier pressures, engineers discovered a hydrogen leak that forced NASA to pause refueling while it worked to stop the flow.

Eventually, NASA engineers were able to refuel the rocket, despite overcoming another leak they said they managed. Overall, the test was “very successful,” said John Blevins, chief SLS engineer at NASA.

Whitmer said that despite the setbacks, the team was “actually very encouraging,” describing it as a “good achievement.”

Hydrogen, the lightest element, is kept in liquid form at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, and NASA has struggled to load it into the rocket’s tanks without leaking it.

NASA officials said Friday that they They have also obtained a waiver of the American Space Force that would allow it to continue the flight. Space Force requires the batteries in the SLS’s termination system, which is designed to destroy a missile if it severely veers off course and threaten a population center, to be recharged every now and then to make sure it runs well.

The initial schedule called for recharging the batteries after 20 days. That was extended to 25 days to allow for a launch attempt in early September, and now the Space Force has allowed NASA to extend it further to accommodate next week’s attempt.

It will be the first launch in NASA Artemis campaign To eventually return astronauts to the moon’s surface. This first mission will send the Orion spacecraft, without any astronauts on board, into orbit around the Moon. It will be followed by a manned flight orbiting again on the moon’s surface, but not landing, possibly in 2024 – With landing coming in 2025 or 2026.