NASA’s giant SLS rocket is one step closer to launch

Finally, NASA engineers refueled the massive Space Launch System rocket on Monday night, passing most of the last important test before its first flight. After reviewing their test data, the team will decide the launch date this summer for the world the most powerful rocketpart of the first major mission of Artemis’ lunar program.

After rolling the fully-fledged mega-rocket, with the Orion crew capsule on top, to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the SLS team began a countdown to a practice called the Wet Dress Rehearsal Test. While previous attempts in April failed thanks to problems with faulty valves, hydrogen leaks and launch tower fans, the team tackled these problems and fully refueled the rocket’s fuel tanks. They went through almost the entire countdown procedure, stopping at T-29 seconds at 19:37 Eastern Time. This may be enough to complete the preparation of SLS and Orion for the launch day.

“It was a long day for the team, but it was a very successful day and it achieved most of the goals we had not achieved in the previous wet dress,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis’ launch director, at a NASA press conference this morning. .

Although the team did meet most of these goals, they did not fully follow the planned scenario. The launch controllers encountered several technical problems, including a new leak of liquid hydrogen – supercooled to cool -423 degrees Fahrenheit – in the line that connects to the main stage of the rocket. If this was the start day, such a leak would normally trigger the startup computer to hold the countdown. After failing to stop the flow, the team decided to trick the computer into not seeing the leak warnings so they could move forward with the countdown. They went further than ever, but failed to reach the planned T-9.3 seconds, where, if continued, the RS-25 engines would start at the main stage.

The team will now review the data it has collected, and in a few days will decide whether to go through the entire countdown test for the fifth time or whether they have enough information to finally proceed with the main Artemis 1 launch later. summer.

The launch of the SLS rocket will be only part of a set of events to return to the moon that begin this summer. As early as this Saturday, NASA plans to launch Capstone, a small satellite with a cubic satellite, which will travel on the orbital path designed for the Lunar Gateway space station, which is expected to be a starting point for astronauts traveling between Earth and the Moon.

The next possible startup window for Artemis 1 opens between July 26 and August 10, followed by another startup window about two weeks later. This unmanned mission will orbit the moon as it deploys small spacecraft for secondary missions and technology demonstrations.

Four other Artemis missions are planned, with potential more in the works. After Artemis 1, the second mission will include a lunar flight with a crew, and if the current schedule is met, in 2025, the long-awaited third mission will finally bring NASA astronauts back to the moon after 50 years of the Apollo program. Artemis’ next missions will build the lunar portal.

At today’s press conference, the members of the team said that they feel confident in the missile systems now that they have completed their most important stages. “The team has shown great discipline, perseverance and strength of spirit,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis Mission Manager. “Artemis 1 paves the way for the moon and firmly establishes Orion and SLS as our crew and cargo transport system for the Artemis program, and yesterday put us on the road to Artemis 1.”

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