NASA is currently unsure whether any repairs will require the rocket to return to its assembly building but nonetheless believes it will be weeks before a third attempt can be made.
It comes a week after the first blast-off was aborted due to what it called critical cooling issues on one of its four engines.
Artemis 1 is the first stage of NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon by 2025. It will use the same Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft as for the return to the lunar surface, but instead undertake a three-week uncrewed mission.
The new issue involved a breach in the liquid hydrogen propulsion lines that feed into the rocket’s core stage fuel tanks.
“The team is now going into the cut-off procedure after being unable to resolve a hydrogen leak,” said Derrol Nail, NASA’s launch commentator.
“The vehicle is safe ... we are a scrub for today,” he added.
The problems arose shortly into the complicated fuelling process, which involves the core stage’s tank being loaded with 2.4 million litres of liquid hydrogen at minus 252 degrees and 891,000 litres of liquid oxygen at minus 182 degrees.
At the point where the liquid hydrogen supply line feeds into the tank, a cavity opened up. NASA used three separate pressurisation tactics to mitigate the problem but all failed.
With the launch hours behind schedule, the decision was taken to scrub the attempt.
It’s currently unclear what repair work can be done on the pad, and what will require the rocket to be moved. However, the next attempt is unlikely to occur until later this month or early October.
NASA’s Artemis mission manager, Mike Sarafin, insisted the blast-off would only happen “when we’re ready” and stressed this was still the first test flight where teams were learning how to operate the vehicle.
Space Connect earlier reported how NASA had shortlisted 13 potential landing regions for its Artemis III mission that will take humans back to the moon in 2025.
The sites are all near the lunar South Pole and were chosen to enable multiple launch windows throughout the year.
Teams also evaluated the locations based on lighting conditions and how easy it would be to communicate with Earth.
“Selecting these regions means we are one giant leap closer to returning humans to the moon for the first time since Apollo,” said NASA’s Mark Kirasich, an associate administrator for Artemis.
“When we do, it will be unlike any mission that’s come before as astronauts venture into dark areas previously unexplored by humans and lay the groundwork for future long-term stays.”
All of the regions are within six degrees of latitude of the lunar South Pole and feature diverse geologic features. However, the sites are closely tied to the timing of the launch, meaning NASA has chosen 13 to enable multiple launch windows.
Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.
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