Launch of Artemis I to the Moon is postponed again, due to a leak

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The imposing Space Launch System rocket remains on the ground, once again, this Saturday, September 3, 2022. NASA failed to avoid another leak during the filling of the Artemis I rocket, the mission which must leave to do around the moon.

The second attempt to launch Artemis I to the moon ended in failure. NASA had planned to take off its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on Saturday, September 3, 2022, at 8:17 p.m. Paris time (opening of a 2-hour launch window). Nevertheless, a new technical incident forced the space agency to postpone the launch of the first mission of the Artemis program . The launcher remains on the ground, at launch complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, we learned around 5:20 p.m.

Originally, the space agency wanted to launch its mission on Monday, August 29 , around 2:30 p.m. A problem noted at the level of the cooling of the engines, located at the bottom of the main stage of the rocket, decided otherwise. Unfortunately, the attempt on September 3 did not prove to be more successful: there was a major problem with a hydrogen leak.

Launch of Artemis I to the Moon is postponed again, due to a leak
Launch of Artemis I to the Moon is postponed again, due to a leak

Another fuel leak in the SLS, the Artemis I rocket

It was around 11 a.m. on Saturday September 3 when the authorization to begin the rocket filling operations was given. The SLS is designed to accommodate oxygen (which serves as oxidizer) and hydrogen (which serves as fuel) in liquid form.

Refueling begins by sending oxygen to the rocket’s central stage. At this stage, we make sure that the tanks get used to the extremely cold temperatures of the liquid. Then comes the turn of liquid hydrogen, which must be poured into the central stage of the rocket. However, at this stage, the teams detected a hydrogen leak in a cavity. Despite efforts to seal the leak, with various solutions implemented three times , the problem persisted.

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The rocket still on its launch pad
The rocket, still on its launch pad. // Source: 
flickr/CC/NASA/Joel Kowsky (cropped photo)

A similar issue occurred on August 29. NASA had found a leak of liquid hydrogen on board the Artemis I rocket , which had not however been presented as the cause of the postponement of the launch.

And, now, what will happen to Artemis I?

NASA has not yet indicated what will be the next step for its rocket and for the mission in general. As journalist Eric Berger, who follows space news closely, notes on Twitter, the space agency should have several options. A launch Monday, September 5 could be considered. Again, that would be a 2 hour launch window. It could open from 11:12 p.m. That said, a Monday launch might be rushed, not giving NASA enough time to resolve the leak concern.

Another possibility would be a takeoff on Tuesday September 6th. This would give NASA more time to correct the problem. But, there would be a downside: on September 6, the launch window should be very short, lasting less than 30 minutes. It would be even more crucial to have good weather (rocket launches being very sensitive to this parameter) for such a short period of time.

Last possibility: the SLS would leave in the VAB (“Vehicle Assembly Building”), the Kennedy Space Center building, in which the launcher was prepared. In this case, it would seem highly likely that Artemis I would not lift off until October 17 , at the earliest.

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