Mission managers made the decision to move the rocket off the launch pad and into the hangar for additional maintenance and system updates following the setback. Before the rocket is relocated, certain testing and work may be done at the pad.
Launch controllers were forced to abandon their second attempt this week to launch a crew capsule into lunar orbit with test dummies after NASA's new moon rocket sprung another hazardous fuel leak on Saturday. The first flight has been postponed for several weeks or perhaps months.
The 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System rocket, the most potent rocket NASA has ever developed, was previously attempted on Monday, but that attempt was also plagued with hydrogen leaks, albeit on a smaller scale. This was in addition to leaks found earlier in the year during countdown drills.
Mission managers made the decision to move the rocket off the launch pad and into the hangar for additional maintenance and system updates following the most recent setback. Before the rocket is relocated, certain testing and work may be done at the launch pad. Officials said that either way, several weeks of work will be required.
A two-week launch ban is set to start, thus the rocket is currently put on hold until the end of September or the beginning of October. NASA will make room for a high-priority SpaceX astronaut trip to the International Space Station scheduled for early October..
In particular on a test mission like this where everyone wants to validate the rocket's systems "before we send four humans up on the top of it," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson emphasized that safety is the primary priority.
Just keep in mind, he continued, "We won't launch until it's right.
For years, NASA has been waiting to launch a human capsule into lunar orbit. If the six-week test is successful, astronauts could fly around the moon in 2024 and arrive there in 2025. The previous lunar landing took place fifty years ago.
At morning, a huge leak in the bottom engine part of the Space Launch System rocket appeared as it was just about to be filled with close to 1 million gallons of fuel. This process has just been started by launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and her team.
As they had done with earlier, smaller leaks, ground controllers made an effort to halt it by stopping and starting the flow of extremely cold liquid hydrogen in an effort to seal the gap around a supply line seal. They actually did that twice, along with running helium through the line. However, the leak continued..
Blackwell-Thompson tried to stop the clock for three or four hours before he succeeded.
Mike Sarafin, the mission manager, says it is still too early to say what caused the leak, although it might have been brought on by someone accidentally overpressurizing the hydrogen line earlier that morning when they sent commands to the wrong valve.
Sarafin stated that the leak was unmanageable and that the flowing hydrogen was two or three times more flammable than allowed.
A number of little hydrogen leaks appeared there and in other places on the rocket during Monday's attempt. Over the next few days, technicians tightened the fittings, but Blackwell-Thompson had warned that she wouldn't be able to tell whether everything was snug until Saturday's fueling.
Due to their extreme small size—the smallest in the universe—hydrogen molecules can escape via the smallest crack or hole. The now-retired NASA space shuttles experienced frequent hydrogen leaks. The primary engines on the new moon rocket are the same kind.
On Monday, the issue was made worse by a sensor that claimed one of the rocket's four engines was too warm when, as experts later discovered, it was actually cool enough. This time, the launch crew intended to disregard the defective sensor and depend on other equipment to verify that each main engine was sufficiently chilled. However, the countdown was never that far.
Thousands of fans who congregated along the shore during the extended Labor Day weekend in anticipation of seeing the Space Launch System rocket take off were let down.
The $4.1 billion test flight is the first phase of NASA's Artemis mission, which is named after Apollo's mythological twin sister and aims to restart lunar exploration.
Artemis seeks to establish a long-term human presence on the moon, with crews eventually staying there for weeks at a time, albeit it is years behind schedule and billions over budget. It is regarded as a Mars-related training ground.
For the final time in 1972, twelve astronauts used the Apollo program to walk on the moon.