The “mega rocket” that NASA has built to return to the Moon, the Space Launch System (SLS), has stalled in a critical test that consists of filling the fuel tanks and doing a launch sequence. After three failed attempts, the US space agency is confident that this time it will be able to overcome this test that has delayed the long-awaited launch of the Artemis 1 mission.
as collected spacenews.comafter just over a month in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the SLS rocket and the Orón capsule are now on launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the so-called “general rehearsal” will begin on Saturday. wet” (“wet dress rehearsal”).
A critical test to return to the Moon
The test, which it will last about two days, involves a huge number of engineers and technicians scattered across different locations. The Kennedy Space Center Launch Control Center team will interface with the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center (Houston), Space Force East Field and the SLS Engineering Support Center (Alabama).
Once the countdown is underway, fueling will begin, following the same schedule that will be used on Artemis I launch day. In parallel, controllers will test the different systems of the rocket and the Orion spacecraft. They will rehearse all phases, including weather reports, planned holding, conditioning and refueling.
While NASA has managed to complete some test objectives in previous attempts, it only managed to load 49% of the core stage liquid oxygen fuel tank and 5% of the liquid hydrogen tank. It’s that the teams were dealing with a problem in a faulty check valve in the upper stage of the rocket and a hydrogen leak in the tail service mast.
Among other tasks, the “wet dress rehearsal” includes stopping the countdown 10 seconds before the simulated launch moment, that is, moments before the engines start. This test is of great importance because the flight director could decide not to continue with a launch if there is a technical or weather problem.
If all goes well, after several days the rocket and capsule will return to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). There, the technicians will remove a series of sensors included specifically for the test and that are not necessary for the real mission, and will carry out the final checks for the launch of Artemis I.
How much will the huge SLS take off? The next release window is between June 26 and August 10. However, NASA’s associate administrator, Jim Free, believes that even if everything goes as expected, it is a very difficult deadline to meet. Consequently, we would go to the launch window that starts the August 23 and closes on September 6.
Artemis I, remember, will be an uncrewed test of the SLS and Orion. The objective of the mission will be, in addition to testing all the systems in a real scenario, placing the capsule in lunar orbit and then returning it to Earth. We’ll have to wait until Artemis II (scheduled for 2024) for the first manned test flight. If all goes well, Artemis III will take off in 2025, the year in which we will set foot on the Moon again.
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