NASA is preparing for an important test to power its Artemis 1 lunar rocket on Wednesday (September 21) that could keep the massive craft on track for liftoff less than a week later.
Artemis 1the first mission in NASA’s Artemis lunar program, will use a space launch system (SLS) megarocket to send an Orion capsule on a long journey to lunar orbit and back. NASA originally intended to launch Artemis 1 on August 29, but technical problems have twice hampered the planned launch.
The second of those errors was a file liquid hydrogen fuel leakwhich the mission team traced to a defective seal in a “quick disconnect” connecting the SLS core stage to a fuel line coming from the Artemis 1 portable launch tower. Replacement of two seals When you disconnect the speed dial earlier this month, which might fix the issue.
A refueling test on Wednesday will show whether this fix was successful. The Artemis 1 team plans to inject ultra-cooled propellant — liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen — into the SLS on Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The operation is scheduled to begin at 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT) on Wednesday. NASA officials said it “will end when the test goals are achieved.” wrote in the update (Opens in a new tab) Friday (September 16).
You can watch the test live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency (Opens in a new tab).
NASA will hold a press conference on Monday (September 19) at 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT) to discuss the refueling test. This briefing will be broadcast live here as well.
Participants in Monday’s discussion are:
- Tom Whitmer, Associate Deputy Director of Joint Exploration Systems Development, NASA Headquarters
- Mike Sarafin, Artemis Mission Director, NASA Headquarters
- Jeremy Parsons, Deputy Director of the Earth Exploration Systems Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
- John Blevins, Chief Engineer, Space Launch System Program, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
If Artemis 1 can’t reach the launch opportunity on September 27, a backup window will open on October 2.
Artemis stack 1 was rolled out to Pad 39B on August 16 from the KSC’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). If Wednesday’s refueling test doesn’t go well, the SLS and Orion may have to return to the VAB for more intense work.
Artemis 1 may also have to roll back to VAB for another reason. The Flight Termination System (FTS), which is designed to destroy the missile if it deviates from its course during launch, has been approved for only 25 days. That time is already over, and NASA needs a waiver from US Space Force To allow Artemis 1 to launch in its current state. (The Space Force oversees the eastern range of missile launches.)
NASA has already received one such waiver, from 20 days to 25 days, and has requested another one. If this second application is refused, the FTS will have to be re-accredited, which will require a rollback to the VAB.
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad (Opens in a new tab)Book (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).