Washington: The US space agency has decided not to attempt the launch of the Artemis I Moon mission in early September as the teams were reviewing options after two failed attempts.
After standing down on Artemis I’s second launch attempt on Saturday, when engineers could not overcome a hydrogen leak in a quick disconnect — an interface between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket — mission managers met and decided they will forego additional launch attempts in early September.
“Over the next several days, teams will establish access to the area of the leak at Launch Pad 39B, and in parallel conduct a schedule assessment to provide additional data that will inform a decision on whether to perform work to replace a seal either at the pad, where it can be tested under cryogenic conditions, or inside the Vehicle Assembly Building,a the US space agency said in a statement.
To meet the requirement for the certification on the flight termination system, currently set at 25 days, NASA will need to roll the rocket and spacecraft back to the vehicle assembly building (VAB) before the next launch attempt to reset the system’s batteries.
The flight termination system is required on all rockets to protect public safety.
During the second launch attempt, engineers saw a leak in a cavity between the ground side and rocket side plates surrounding an 8-inch line used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen from the SLS rocket.
Three attempts at reseating the seal were unsuccessful, said NASA.
“While the rocket remained safe and it is too early to tell whether the bump in pressurisation contributed to the cause of the leaky seal, engineers are examining the issue,” said the space agency.
Because of the complex orbital mechanics involved in launching to the Moon, NASA would have had to launch Artemis I by September 6 as part of the current launch period, which now looks extremely difficult.
The US space agency on August 30 scrubbed the mission launch for the first time owing to technical glitch with one of the SLS rocket’s engines.