Early Monday morning, the launch countdown for NASA’s New Moon rocket was interrupted by a fuel leak, which reappeared in the same location where it was seen during spring dress rehearsals.
Launch controllers called off the refueling operation, which had already been delayed for an hour due to an offshore thunderstorm. They slowly restarted the process, confirming it was indeed a hydrogen fuel leak and not a sensor failure, but the alarm forced another pause as precious minutes of the countdown ticked away. I got
At 322 feet (98 meters), my rocket is the most powerful NASA has ever built, surpassing the Saturn V that brought astronauts to the moon half a century ago.
If this test flight is successful, it will be the first crew capsule in 50 years to enter lunar orbit.
There were no astronauts inside the Orion capsule on top of the rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Instead, three test dummies were strapped in for an orbital lunar mission expected to last six weeks.
With no one on board, thousands of people packed the shores to watch the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket soar. Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Orlando with her husband, but she had yet to make the hour-long drive to Cape Canaveral for a planned takeoff.
The next launch attempt won’t be until Friday at the earliest.
A hydrogen fuel leak ruined NASA’s April countdown test and prompted numerous repairs. The demo He repeated in June with more success, although this also resulted in some leaks. The manager said he won’t know for sure if the fix worked until he tried to load about a million gallons of ultra-cold fuel into the rocket’s tanks on Monday.
Launch Director Charlie Blackwell Thompson and her team also had to deal with communication issues regarding the Orion capsule.
Engineers scrambled to figure out the 11-minute delay on the communication line between Launch Control and Orion that occurred late Sunday. By Monday morning, the problem had been resolved, but NASA needed to know why the problem occurred before committing to a launch.
This maiden flight of NASA’s 21st-century lunar exploration program, named Artemis after Apollo’s mythical twin sisters, has been delayed by many years. Billions of dollars in budget overruns due to repeated delays. This demo alone cost him $4.1 billion.
If the tests go well, the astronauts will embark on a second flight, flying around the Moon and returning in 2024. A two-man moon landing may follow by the end of 2025.
The Apollo program landed 12 astronauts on the moon from 1969 to 1972, but stayed only a few days. NASA is about to build a lunar base during Artemis. Astronauts fly in and out for weeks at a time. The next step will be Mars, probably in the late 2030s or early 2040s.