The return of the human being to the Moon continues to be delayed. The gigantic “mega rocket” that NASA has built for this historic mission, the Space Launch System (SLS), has suffered from a series of problems that have prevented it from successfully complete the so-called “wet dress rehearsal”.
After making three attempts at this critical test, the US space agency decided to take the time to carefully assess the situation and overcome the difficulties that have been delaying the long-awaited first launch of Artemis time and time again.
Now, NASA’s associate administrator, Jim Free, assures that they will try again between early and mid june. Consequently, the first unmanned flight of the program, the Artemis I mission, jumps in the schedule until at least August of this year.
The test that complicates the launch of the SLS
While the program has been delayed at least sixteen times over the past few years, it is now stuck in this critical test of simulating each stage of the launch without the rocket leaving the pad. This includes refueling and counting down.
But the team was dealing with a problem in a faulty check valve in the upper stage of the rocket. Upon inspection, they found that a piece of rubber was preventing it from sealing properly, although they were unable to identify the source of the strange piece.
In addition, they are devoted to the repair of a hydrogen leak at tail service mast, which is located at the base of the mobile launcher and is connected to the central stage. This problem, according to NASA, could have been caused by loose bolts in a joint.
The bolts have already been tightened and show no signs of leaking. However, they add, they won’t know for sure if the source of the leak has been completely sealed until the rocket returns to complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center and begins loading liquid hydrogen.
With these issues resolved, the rocket, now housed in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) will return to the launch pad. If everything goes according to plan, that should happen at the end of this month of May.
The next step will be to retry another “wet dress rehearsal,” which could happen in early to mid-June. “Stopping at the VAB is a stop into the pits to do what we need to do and get back out on the platform as quickly as possible,” said Jim Free.
In this way, as we advance above, Artemis would be ready for its first unmanned mission. The team evaluates for that event three launch windows: between July 26 and August 9, from August 23 to August 29 and from September 2 to September 6.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism