NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket passed a critical fueling test Wednesday (Sept. 21), potentially putting it on track for a Sept. 27 liftoff.
artemis 1 will send an uncrewed Orion capsule into lunar orbit using a giant space launch system (SLS) Rocket. NASA tried to launch the mission on September 3, but a . failed by liquid hydrogen propellant leak On “quick disconnect” on the SLS core stage, an interface connecting the rocket to the fuel line from its mobile launch tower.
Artemis 1 Team replaced two seals Around a quick disconnect on September 9th, then scheduled a fuel test to see if the fix worked. The test took place on Wednesday at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida and brought good news for the mission.
“The objectives we set out to accomplish, we were able to meet today,” Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director with the Exploration Ground Systems Program at KSC, said in brief remarks after Wednesday’s test. Day.
This is not to say that everything went well. For example, the leak popped up again upon quick disconnect during liquid-hydrogen loading. But the team was able to troubleshoot it; He overheated the quick disconnect, allowing it to “reset”, reducing the leak rate to an acceptable level.
Artemis 1 personnel also observed a separate hydrogen leak during a “pre-pressurization test,” which was also part of Wednesday’s activities. NASA officials said, “This test enabled engineers to calibrate the settings used for the conditioning of the engines during the terminal countdown and from launch day to reduce schedule risk during the countdown to launch day.” Validated the first deadline.” explained in a blog post (opens in new tab) after the test is over.
Agency officials said this second leak was smaller than the second leak, and the Artemis 1 team was able to get it under control.
Blackwell-Thompson said NASA is currently looking at September 27 as the launch target for Artemis 1, with a possible backup date of October 2. Despite Wednesday’s success, it’s too early to make a formal commitment to either of those dates.
“I think we’ll take the data and we’ll see what it tells us,” she said. But, she added, “I am extremely excited about today’s test and achieving all my objectives.”
A few other things will need to go on its way to Artemis 1 for the mission to launch over the next two weeks. For example, the weather has to cooperate, and it’s never certain on Florida’s Space Coast. The mission must also be waived on certification of its flight termination system (FTS), which is designed to destroy the SLS if it goes off during launch.
US Space Force, which oversees the eastern range for rocket launches, certifies Artemis 1’s FTS for 25 days, and that time has now expired. The mission has applied for exemption; If this is not allowed, the giant rocket will have to be moved from pad 39B back to KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building, the only place where re-certification can take place.
“Right now, we’re still in the process of having technical discussions with Range,” Tom Whitmire, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Common Exploration Systems Development, said during a press conference on Monday (Sept. 19), referring to the waiver. Situation. “It’s been very productive and collaborative.”
Artemis 1 has already received an FTS exemption that has extended the certification from 20 days to 25.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts Moon In 2024 and Artemis 3 will take off shoes near the lunar south pole a year or two later. artemis The program aims to eventually establish a long-term human presence on and around the Moon, and use the skills and knowledge gained in doing so to bring astronauts to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s. .
Mike Wall is the author ofout there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tait), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab), Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab),