As a result of engine trouble, NASA will try again to launch its redesigned moon rocket on a test flight this week on Saturday. Fueling procedures are being changed to address the issue, managers said. It is also possible that a malfunctioning sensor caused Monday’s launch to be scrapped.
NASA’s 322-foot (98-meter) rocket, the most powerful ever built by the agency, remains on its pad at Kennedy Space Center. An attempt will be made to send the capsule around the moon and back using the Space Launch System rocket. It will be a test flight without people, just three test dummies, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Upon successful launch, it will be the first lunar capsule since NASA’s Apollo program 50 years ago. If the problem reappears and the countdown is halted again, NASA’s rocket program manager, John Honeycutt, said the Saturday launch would provide additional insight. Rather than sitting around scratching our heads about whether it was good enough, that’s a better option.
Based on what I’ve heard from the technical team today, what we need to do is pore over the data and refine our plans for developing the flight rationale. One of the four main engines in the rocket’s core stage could not be chilled sufficiently prior to liftoff during Monday’s launch attempt. According to Honeycutt, the hydrogen fuel temperature appeared to be as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) warmer than the desired minus-420 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-250 degrees Celsius).
Chilling will begin a half-hour earlier for Saturday afternoon’s launch attempt once fueling begins. This engine chill down was conducted earlier during successful testing last year, so executing it earlier may prove beneficial. In addition, Honeycutt questioned the integrity of one engine sensor, saying it might have provided inaccurate information on Monday. It would take weeks to change that sensor, he said, since the rocket would have to be hauled back into the hangar.
This $4.1 billion test launch marks the beginning of NASA’s Artemis moon-exploration program, named after the twin sister to Apollo in Greek mythology. As early as 2024, astronauts could strap in for a lap around the moon, and in the year 2025, they might even attempt a landing on the moon.