NASA Says Artemis Rocket Fuel Test Met Goals

NASA, hoping to launch its new Space Launch System rocket toward the moon later this month, completed a fuel test of the tank on Wednesday after dealing with two leaks and technical problems.

“Every goal that we set out to do, we were able to achieve today,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, launch manager for Artemis I.

Still, Blackwell-Thompson did not confirm a launch date for the mission. Artemis I of the agency, which will mark the debut of the enormous SLS. The earliest NASA could launch is September 27.

“I don’t like to get ahead of the data. Because of that, I would like the team to have the opportunity to review it to see if there are any changes that we need to make to our loading procedure, our schedules,” he said.

a spokesman for theto NASA he characterized the first leak as “very manageable” after remedial steps were taken, but said the malfunction still had “a lot of people scratching their heads”. Later that day, a second leak surfaced, but NASA was able to complete the test.

Early during the test, a hydrogen leak arose around 10:05 a.m. ET when engineers loaded the SLS rocket with propellant. They were able to control the leak after pausing the hydrogen fuel supply and fix some issues by adjusting pressures and temperatures. A second leak also surfaced, but eventually the team was able to fully load the rocket with propellant. The agency later announced that it had completed the refueling.

The leaks may still raise concerns for NASA engineers. If today had been a launch attempt, NASA would not have been able to fly. Leaks waxed and waned periodically throughout the test, and it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fluctuations.

Wednesday’s test filled the SLS with super-cold propellant, simulating fueling the rocket on the day of a launch. The first hydrogen leak to surface today was similar to the one that caused the cancellation of NASA’s second SLS launch attempt on September 3.

After that cleanup launch, NASA opted to replace the components that caused the leak while the SLS remained on the launch pad, rather than send it back to its hangar, which would have resulted in a further delay.

NASA isn’t entirely sure what caused the original leak, but while investigating the hardware, engineers found signs that the remains of an unknown foreign object might have been to blame. For Wednesday’s test, NASA also used what its officials called a “kinder and gentler” approach to loading propellants, which involved slowly increasing the pressure of hydrogen during the start of the procedure.

The Space Launch System, once cleared for launch, will send an uncrewed Orion capsule around the moon. It is the first major launch of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon by 2025. The SLS will be the primary vehicle to send people near the Moon in the future. , traveling inside the Orion crew capsule. Artemis I is meant to show SLS and Orion working as intended.

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