Categories: InnovationScience

NASA Cancels Artemis I Moon Rocket Test Launch

NASA called off the highly anticipated first flight of its Space Launch System on Monday following a series of problems with fuelling procedures.

Engineers were unable to chill one of the booster rocket’s RS-25 engines to the correct temperature using liquid hydrogen, which is kept at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (-252C).

A former NASA astronaut said it is “really hard to launch a brand new rocket on the first try”.

Liquid hydrogen

Fuelling began late after a thunderstorm came within five miles of the launchpad in Florida at around midnight.

Following the storm engineers began fuelling first with liquid oxygen, then liquid hydrogen.

NASA stopped fuelling after sensors at the base of the rocket detected a leak, but was finally able to fuel the first stage and was nearly complete with fuelling the second stage.

However, when engineers tried to prep the engines for launch they found liquid hydrogen was not running through one of the four RS-25 engines mounted at the base of the rocket, meaning it did not reach the correct temperature for launch.

Concept image of NASA’s Orion crewed spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

Test flight

“It’s really hard to launch a brand new rocket on the first try — especially one this complex,” wrote former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman on Twitter, adding that the cancellation was “not surprising”.

“NASA has to be careful with this one since they only have this one rocket intended for the Artemis I mission,” he wrote.

Speaking on NASA TV after the launch attempt, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said his Space Shuttle flight in 1986 was delayed four times before a “flawless” fifth try.

The agency does not “launch until it’s right”, he said.

NASA’s Orion crewed spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

Unmanned mission

The Artemis I mission is part of the broader Artemis programme intended to send astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

The unmanned test launch is planned to send the Orion lander spacecraft around the Moon and then return it to Earth, at which time Orion’s heatshield will be tested during re-entry.

The spacecraft is intended to enter the atmosphere at 32 times the speed of sound, 38,000km/h (24,000mph), and is to reach more than 4,000F (2,200C).

NASA’s Orion crewed spacecraft. Image credit: NASA
Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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