(CNN) – According to NASA officials, NASA’s giant Artemis I lunar rocket could face another attempt at a critical ground test before its launch next week.
Engineers test a 322-foot (98 m) stack of Artemis I rockets, including NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, through their final steps on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This Thursday we met hydrogen leakage problem.
The critical test, known as wet-clothing training, simulates all stages of a launch without the missile leaving the launch pad. This process includes loading the fuel, performing a full launch simulation countdown, resetting the countdown clock, and emptying the missile stores.
Hydrogen leakage “prevent” the end of the test
The team was able to load ultra-cooled propellant into the tanks of the SLS rocket’s primary stage, but “encountered a liquid hydrogen leak in the tail service mast that prevented the team from completing testing,” according to the agency.
Mike said, “After solving the problem, the team decided to call it a day because when there’s a hydrogen leak, and you have ambient oxygen outside, you just need an ignition source to shut off the fire triangle. So it was an ignition hazard.” Sarafin, Artemis mission manager at NASA Headquarters, during a news conference Friday.
Technicians collected data, drained the tanks, and made sure the missile remained safe and stable. Despite the leak, the team was able to work through a series of critical tests during the third attempt.
“The lunar missile is fine,” Sarfin said. “All the issues we face are procedural and lessons learned.”
Now, the testing team is still evaluating how to fix the leak. The troubleshooting process started on Friday morning.
During a press conference, Charlie Blackwell Thompson, Artemis launch manager for NASA’s Earth Exploration Systems Program, said the team will “look at these specific areas that we think might be the problem, and how we can get to them,” and outline a path forward. This Friday.
Next attempt at trial
Meanwhile, the team is preparing for the next potential opportunity for another training attempt on April 21, which is the earliest the team feels comfortable, Sarafin said. The Artemis team is working closely with SpaceX because the Crew-4 is expected to launch at a launch pad nearby on April 23.
Sarafin hasn’t revealed the exact plan to keep the race on track, given it’s only 24 hours into the hack, but said the team is looking into “easily accessible” options.
“Hopefully there’s something here that’s fairly simple and needs to be modified or easy to fix, and we can do that on the platform and in a fairly short time frame,” Sarafin said. “Then there are two more invasive options that we have to weigh against a whole host of considerations including putting extra pressure on the car.”
The longer the missile remains on the launch pad, the more it will be exposed to wind and other stress factors while exposed to the elements, not to mention the stress of repeated testing. This can determine when the stack will re-enter the space center’s vehicle assembly building.
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When asked if the Artemis I could be launched without completing certain aspects of the full test, the team said it would have to meet an acceptable level of risk. The ground- and flight-test programs have not been completed, Sarafin said, so the team has yet to come up with that consideration.
Blackwell-Thompson said the goal of wet training was to identify problems that could be corrected before forcing it to abort a launch attempt, something the Apollo and shuttle programs also encountered.
The first shuttle underwent five or six fuel tests before launch. Also, the shuttle had only one stage, while the SLS rocket has a main and upper stage that must be fed with supercooled fuel, which makes the process more complicated.
Sarafin said the team talks from time to time with employees who have worked on previous programs, comparing physics challenges, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, frigid temperatures, structural stresses and flammability hazards.
“History has shown that it has been a challenge for almost everyone who has done something of this magnitude,” Sarafin said.
The results of the trial will determine a launch date
The results of the rehearsal will determine when the unmanned Artemis I will be launched on a mission that will go beyond the moon and return to Earth. This mission will launch NASA’s Artemis program, which is expected to return humans to the moon and land the first woman and first people of color on the moon in 2025.
“But I have no doubts that we will finish the test campaign and be ready to fly,” Blackwell Thompson added.
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