NASA postpones Artemis’ first test flight of New Moon rocket after engine failure

  • The Florida explosion was targeted on Monday
  • Artemis seeks to return humans to the moon, possibly by 2025
  • The program behind the Apollo moon missions 50 years ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, Aug. 29 (Reuters) – An engine cooling problem forced NASA on Monday to delay the launch of its massive new experimental rocket it plans to use on astronauts’ upcoming trips to the Moon by at least four days. More than 50 years after the last Apollo mission to the moon.

The problem arose when a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s fuel tanks were filled with supercooled liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants, and launch teams began a process of “conditioning” to cool the engines enough for takeoff, NASA said.

But one of the four main engines failed to cool down as expected, prompting the launch team managers to pause the countdown.

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The launch was called off at 08:35 a.m. EDT (1235 GMT), two minutes after the target launch time, as the 32-story rocket and Orion capsule were waiting to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The mission, dubbed Artemis I, requires a six-week unmanned test flight of Orion around the Moon and back to Earth in order to splash water into the Pacific Ocean.

NASA has not set a new launch date for the two-stage rocket, but said its first opportunity was Friday, September 2.

The agency’s adherence to this date depends on how quickly the engineers solve the engine problem. The next launch opportunity is Monday, September 5th.

Late launch delays are routine in the space business, and Monday was not indicative of a major setback for NASA or its primary contractors, Boeing Co. (ban) For SLS and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) for Orion.

“We don’t launch unless it’s true,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in an online interview right after the liftoff was called off. “It’s just to clarify that this is a very complex machine, a very complex system, and all of these things have to work. And you don’t want to light the candle until it’s ready to go.”

However, the delay was a disappointment to the thousands of spectators who gathered on the beaches around Cape Canaveral, with binoculars in hand.

Vice President Kamala Harris had just arrived at the Space Center, joined a crowd of dignitaries and invited guests attending the event, shortly before the scrub was called in.

The SLS-Orion rocket’s first flight will mark a departure from NASA’s highly-acclaimed Moon-to-Mars Artemis program, the successor to the Apollo lunar missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

The flight aims to put the 5.75-million-pound craft through its paces on a rigorous test flight, pushing the limits of its design, before NASA deems it reliable enough to carry astronauts on a subsequent flight aimed at 2024.

Monday’s technical hitch was predicted weeks ago during NASA’s pre-launch “wet rehearsal” tests for the SLS, when a problem with the rocket’s hydrogen fuel line forced engineers to abandon full engine conditioning testing.

NASA officials eventually decided to go ahead with final preparations for the launch and postpone the test they couldn’t perform until the actual countdown, acknowledging then that this strategy could eventually delay liftoff, as it did on Monday.

Five decades ago, humans are still on the moon

The SLS is the world’s most powerful complex rocket, and represents the largest new vertical launch system the US space agency has built since the Saturn V launch during Apollo, which grew out of the US-Soviet space race in the Cold War. era.

If the first two Artemis missions are successful, NASA aims to return astronauts to the moon, including the first woman to set foot on the moon, as early as 2025, although many experts believe the time frame is likely to be later than Few way. Years.

The last humans to walk on the Moon were the two-man Apollo 17 team in 1972, following in the footsteps of 10 other astronauts during five previous missions beginning with Apollo 11 in 1969.

The Artemis program eventually seeks to create a long-range lunar base as a springboard for more ambitious astronauts’ flights to Mars, a goal that NASA officials have said will likely take until at least the late 2030s.

The program is named after the goddess who was the twin sister of Apollo in ancient Greek mythology.

The SLS system has been in development for more than a decade, with years of delays and cost overruns. But Artemis has also created tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade.

One issue that NASA officials cited last week as a potential show stopper for Monday’s launch was any sign during rocket refueling that a newly repaired hydrogen line installation had failed to hold. NASA officials said Sunday that they are also looking at the possibility of a possible, but minor, helium leak in the launch pad equipment.

Although there are no humans on board, Orion will carry a simulator crew of three – one male and two mannequins – equipped with sensors to measure radiation levels and other stresses that astronauts might encounter in real life.

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(Reporting by Joey Rowlett and Steve Gorman) Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Alistair Bell

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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