NASA Successfully Fires Lunar Rocket on Fourth Attempt

Nasa Successfully Fires Lunar Rocket On Fourth Attempt

NASA’s fourth attempt at a crucial refueling test of its large lunar rocket was largely a success, if not complete.

NASA launched its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to launch platform 39B at the Kennedy Space Center on June 6 in preparation for a “wet test” attempt. One such process involves pumping in and out of the cryogenic propellant and a simulated launch countdown to test vital ground and flight control systems.

“When we do a dress rehearsal,” NASA Deputy Assistant Administrator Tom Whitmeyer said at a post-test press conference, “we are rehearsing the ability to get the rocket ready to fly.”

NASA began the wet test just after 7 am EDT on Monday, successfully loading the rocket’s two stages with thrusters — liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen — for the first time. However, a hydrogen leak occurring during the refueling process would cause the simulated countdown to momentarily stop at T-minus 29 seconds on the countdown.

“Our original plan was to get to T-minus 9.34 seconds,” Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, launch director for NASA’s Earth Exploration Systems Program, said at a press conference after the test.

Despite the cut to the countdown portion of the test, NASA officials said on Tuesday that the test had achieved most of its goals, though they did not detail which items are still pending.

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“I would say we’re in the 90th percentile of where we need to be overall,” said Michael Sarafin, manager of NASA’s Artemis Moon mission. “However, there are still some outstanding issues that we need to look into.”

The SLS and Orion are mainstays of NASA’s Artemis Moon program, and the space agency plans to use them to transport astronauts back to the lunar surface in 2025 as part of the Artemis III mission. But before that, Artemis II will take astronauts on a lunar flight in 2023, and before that, Artemis I, an unmanned test flight of both vehicles, needs to take to the skies.

After the three previous attempts at the wet test, NASA officials determined that successful completion of the test was required before Artemis I could launch.

NASA first attempted a wet test on April 3, but faulty fans designed to handle hazardous gases on the rocket’s mobile launch pad ended the test. The second attempt on April 4 was aborted midway when a pressure valve on the mobile launch vehicle’s platform failed, while the third failed on April 14 due to a leak of liquid hydrogen at the rocket’s refueling connection.

NASA put the SLS back into the Kennedy Space Center vehicle assembly building on April 25 to correct the malfunction, while Artemis I’s launch windows were delayed from May to June, July and, most recently, late. of August.

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As of Tuesday, NASA officials have yet to commit to a new launch date for Artemis I.

“We really need to sit down and do everything we just talked about,” Whitmeyer said, “look at the goals, see what we’ve accomplished and see what additional work might be needed.”

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