Artemis launch plan: Here are NASA’s next steps

Kennedy Space Center

Photo: NASA/Corey Huston

NASA aborted a second attempt to launch the Artemis 1 mission into lunar orbit early Saturday after engineers failed to seal a hydrogen leak that occurred while loading propellants into the rocket’s main stage fuel tanks. After the second launch failed, NASA will not make a third attempt in September.

NASA said the hydrogen leak occurred at the interface between liquid hydrogen Fuel feed tax and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket”. SLS is uniquely capable of carrying the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

The Artemis 1 mission’s second launch, an unmanned test, is set for Saturday at 2:17 p.m. ET (11:17 a.m. PT) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SLS core stage, manufactured by Boeing, is 212 feet (64.6 meters) tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet (8.4 meters). It stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as well as systems that feed the platform’s four R2-25 engines.

See: What is Artemis? Everything you need to know about NASA’s new moon mission

Artemis It is a multi-phase project that plans to send astronauts to the Moon and beyond. The Artemis mission will also see the first woman and man land on the moon.

NASA’s Artemis mission team was previously terminated August 29 launch attempt Engineers were unable to cool all four RS-25 machines A necessary step to ensure that the core remains undamaged during the eight-minute journey to low-Earth orbit — down to minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit (-250C). After reaching low Earth orbit, the core stage separates from the upper stage and the Orion spacecraft.

During the second launch attempt, one of the four engines showed higher temperatures than the others, NASA reported. The so-called “bleed test” takes place before supercool liquid hydrogen flows into the rocket’s core.

During the first attempt, engineers discovered that A A hydrogen leak in a “purity can”. But at that point it can be managed by manually adjusting the impulse flow rates.

Following the failed attempt to launch the Artemis 1 mission on Saturday, NASA revealed it had made three attempts to plug the leak.

“Engineers found a leak in a cavity between the ground side and rocket side plates around an 8-inch line used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen from the SLS rocket. Three attempts to reposition the seal failed,” NASA said. Saturday evening.

NASA is investigating whether an “inadvertent command” sent during the initial stages of hydrogen loading temporarily raised pressure in the system and contributed to the leaky seal.

“During the initial phase of hydrogen loading operations known as chilldown, when the rocket controllers were cooling the lines and propulsion system before flowing super-cold liquid hydrogen into the rocket’s tank at minus 423 degrees F, an inadvertent command was sent that temporarily raised the pressure. While the rocket was safe to pressurize, “It’s too early to tell if a pump leak is the cause of the seal, and engineers are investigating the problem,” NASA said.

See: NASA’s new small, high-powered laser could detect water on the moon

At approximately 11:17 a.m. ET, three hours before Saturday’s launch window opened, Artemis launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson opted to scrub the second attempt.

By Reuters, NASA had set a backup launch time for Monday or Tuesday this week, but decided it would take longer than that to fix the new hydrogen leak. The next available window is from September 19 to 30, or another window in October, NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free told a media briefing.

Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager, said it would take “several weeks of work” to resolve the current technical issues. If that involves rolling the SLS back to the Assembly Building, any launch would be pushed back until mid-October.

According to NASA Artemis mission available web page, there are 11 release opportunities between October 17 and October 31. A rocket cannot be launched on any day – four key conditions must be met.

  • Launch day must calculate the Moon’s position in its lunar cycle so that the SLS rocket’s upper stage will fire the trans-lunar injection to intercept the Moon on its “curve” for a distant retrograde orbit.
  • The resulting trajectory should ensure that Orion is never in darkness for more than 90 minutes at a time so that the solar array wings can capture sunlight and convert it into electricity.
  • Orion, which sees the spacecraft plunge into Earth’s upper atmosphere, must support a trajectory that allows for a planned ‘skip entry’ strategy during its return to Earth. Final Descent and Splash Down.
  • The launch date should mark Orion with daylight to facilitate recovery of the spacecraft from the Pacific Ocean.
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