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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Technical Difficulties Hinder NASA’s Artemis-1 Launch Again

Hydrogen leaks also hampered the first attempt earlier in the week

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Russell Chattaraj
Russell Chattaraj
Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

UNITED STATES: Launch controllers were forced to abandon their second attempt to launch a crew capsule into lunar orbit with test dummies on Saturday after NASA’s new moon rocket suffered another hazardous fuel leak. 

The first attempt earlier in the week was also hampered by hydrogen leaks, although those were on different parts of the 322-foot (98-meter), the most powerful rocket NASA has ever produced. According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, repair work might push the launch into October.

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Later in the day, mission management was scheduled to get together to make a decision. On Tuesday, a two-week launch ban goes into effect. 

According to Nelson, the rocket may need to be towed off the launch pad and returned to the hangar for extensive leak inspections and repairs, which would delay the flight until October. 

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“When it’s ready, we’ll leave. We won’t take off till then, and definitely not now, for a test flight in which we’ll put this to the test. Before we put four people on top of it and make sure it’s perfect,” Nelson said.

Be prepared for the scrubs. This is part of our space programme,” he added.

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Before astronauts board the subsequent voyage, NASA aims to complete a full orbit of the moon in the crew capsule atop the rocket. If the five-week test demonstration using test dummies is successful, astronauts could travel around the moon in 2024 and get there in 2025. 

The previous lunar landing took place fifty years ago. At dawn, the Space Launch System rocket began filling with nearly 1 million gallons of fuel when a leak in the bottom engine section became apparent. Blackwell-Thompson finally stopped the countdown after three to four hours of futile effort.

Ground controllers attempted to stop it by stopping and restarting the flow of extremely cold liquid hydrogen to close the breach around a supply line seal, as they had done with earlier leaks. 

They tried that twice and also ran helium through the line. However, the leak continued. After three to four hours of fruitless effort, Blackwell-Thompson finally stopped the countdown.

Hydrogen fuel from another part of the rocket escaped during the attempt to launch it on Monday. Over the last week, technicians tightened the fittings, but Blackwell-Thompson warned that she wouldn’t be able to tell whether everything was snug until Saturday’s fueling. 

Due to their extremely small size—the smallest in the universe—hydrogen molecules can escape via the smallest crack or hole. The now-retired NASA space shuttles experienced frequent hydrogen leaks. The primary engines on the new moon rocket are the same kind.

An even bigger issue Engineers later confirmed that although a sensor on Monday claimed one of the rocket’s four engines was too warm, it was actually cool enough. This time the launch team was going to disregard the bad sensor and use other equipment to make sure each main engine was appropriately chilled. 

But the countdown was never that long in addition to the added risk that the engine issue and a different concern—cracks in the rocket’s insulating foam—were accepted by mission managers. But they conceded that other issues, such as fuel leaks, might result in yet another delay.

Despite this, thousands congregated along the coast to watch the Space Launch System rocket take off. Local officials anticipated many people owing to the extended Labor Day weekend. 

The test flight, which cost $4.1 billion, is the first stage of NASA’s Artemis mission, which intends to recommence lunar exploration and is named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister. 

Twelve astronauts participated in the NASA Apollo program’s final moonwalk in 1972. Artemis aims to establish a long-term human presence on the moon, with crews eventually staying there for weeks. However, it is years behind schedule and billions over budget. It is regarded as a Mars-related training ground.

Also Read: Artemis 1: NASA will Attempt a Second Launch of a Rocket Around the Moon 


  • Russell Chattaraj

    Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

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