On its fourth try on Monday, NASA largely accomplished a observe countdown for the rocket that’s to take astronauts to the moon.
But company officers mentioned it was too early to know whether or not the rehearsal could be sufficient to give the go-ahead for the rocket, the Space Launch System, to launch the Orion capsule on a take a look at flight round the moon with no astronauts aboard.
Even if the observe countdown had gone completely, that mission, Artemis 1, would have been unlikely to blast off sooner than late August. That flight is to be the start line for the United States to return astronauts to the lunar floor greater than a half century after the Apollo 17 mission.
Sitting on a launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rocket’s propellant tanks have been for the first time totally full of 196,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen into the rocket’s propellant tanks. Problems that had occurred throughout three earlier makes an attempt in April have been solved.
“I feel it was a really profitable day and once more achieved a majority of the aims,” mentioned Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the launch director, throughout a information convention Tuesday.
However, a brand new drawback – hydrogen leaking in a gasoline line connector – cropped up. By warming up after which cooling the connector once more, engineers hoped that the seal would shift sufficient to cease the leaking. That didn’t work.
During an actual launch, that drawback would have been the finish of the countdown for the 322-foot tall rocket.
But the train on Monday was what NASA calls a moist gown rehearsal – moist due to the flowing of precise gasoline into the propellant tanks – that’s designed to work out glitches and procedures with out the pleasure of engines igniting and rocket rising to area.
With the countdown clock paused at T-10 minutes, engineers labored out a plan the place a valve could be closed to cease the leak and errors could be suppressed to enable the countdown to proceed to take a look at different rocket parts and launch procedures.
Ms. Blackwell-Thompson authorized the plans, and the countdown continued till, as anticipated, the countdown terminated with 29 seconds left. The liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen have been then drained from the rocket.
On Tuesday, NASA officers mentioned they wanted to sift by means of the information to see what they may nonetheless want to do earlier than they really feel they’re prepared to launch the rocket. The Space Launch System and Orion, the capsule on high the place astronauts will sit, are important parts for Artemis, NASA’s program to ship astronauts again to the moon.
Still NASA officers have been ecstatic with the progress.
Thomas Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy affiliate administrator for frequent exploration techniques growth, mentioned filling the propellant tanks and counting down so shut to zero have been main milestones.
“We’re the items of the puzzle to determine what are the items that we did not get,” he mentioned. Whitmeyer mentioned. “But we additionally obtained an terrible lot of items to the puzzle put collectively, and we’ve got a reasonably good concept of what the puzzle appears to be like like at this level.”
In April, three tries to conduct a moist gown rehearsal all ended early due to a wide range of issues.
The rocket was rolled again to an enormous storage referred to as the Vehicle Assembly Building the place technicians might extra readily diagnose the issues and make repairs. The hiatus additionally allowed time for an off-site vendor to improve its facility that offered nitrogen gasoline – used to purge hazardous gases – to the Kennedy Space Center. During the two rehearsal makes an attempt, disruptions in the nitrogen provide delayed the countdowns.
NASA might determine to carry out one other moist gown rehearsal, or it might determine it has sufficient information and roll the rocket again to the Vehicle Assembly Building one final time for closing preparations for launch, which embody putting in the self-destruct mechanism to destroy the rocket in. case one thing goes fallacious throughout flight.
For Artemis 1, the rocket would launch and ship the Orion capsule on a prolonged journey round the moon. It would then circle again on its manner to re-entering Earth’s ambiance and splashing down for an ocean touchdown.
The second Artemis flight, scheduled for 2024, would have astronauts on board for the same journey, with out touchdown on the moon. Artemis 3 is to be the first lunar touchdown by astronauts since 1972. NASA has proposed a 2025 date for that crewed journey, but it surely might face extra postponements.