The Artemis I rocket leaked again: NASA sent a team to “tighten the bolts”

While NASA is trying for the third time to launch Artemis I to the Moon, a new hydrogen leak has occurred at the level of the rocket. A team had to be sent to repair it on site.

Update from November 16 at 8:15 a.m.: Finally, the Artemis I rocket took off for the Moon, after long months of waiting and difficulties.

Original article: It’s D-Day for Artemis I: the launch of NASA’s imposing rocket to the Moon is scheduled for Wednesday, November 16, 2022. For the third time, the space agency is trying to send around the Moon the first mission of its Artemis program. The shooting window was to open at 7:04 a.m. (Paris time). But, around 3 a.m., the word no one wanted to hear was said: there was another leak of liquid hydrogen, the fuel for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Another hydrogen leak on the Artemis I rocket

We stopped the flow of liquid hydrogen to the central stage due to an intermittent leak on the filling valve “, then informed the space agency by Twitter. Around 4 a.m., it was decided tosend a “red team” on site. Experts traveled directly to the Kennedy Space Center launch pad, where the SLS is located, “ to tighten the bolts of a valve of the mobile starter “. We can see the arrival of this team of experts on site in the next video.

It was around 5:30 a.m. when NASA has indicated that the team left the launch pad, and that the resupply of the rocket with liquid hydrogen resumed. Then, we learned around 6 a.m. that the leak had been repaired. It’s not not the first time that a team must thus be sent directly to a rocket to solve a leak problem. One example is famous: in 1969, a liquid hydrogen leak occurred when NASA was about to launch the iconic Apollo 11 mission into space. A team of 4 people had been sent on site to repair the problem.

In addition to the hydrogen leak, another problem was found on the SLS. It concerned an SLS tracking radar. NASA has finally indicated that this concern has also been resolved. However, some tests had to be carried out to verify that everything was in order. The launch countdown has been temporarily paused.

Intervention of the team on the SLS launch pad. // Source: Flickr/CC/NASA/Joel Kowsky (cropped photo)

The originally scheduled 2 hour firing window was to open at 7:04 a.m., but was therefore delayed. ” The launch team determines our new launch time », NASA said around 6:50 a.m. The verdict was returned around 7:45 a.m.: a new “go” for the launch was given, with the opening of the firing window at 7:47 a.m. (i.e. a delay of 43 minutes on the initial schedule).

Since August, NASA has been desperately trying to go to the Moon

These developments come after months of difficulties, which forced NASA to postpone the departure of the mission several times. The SLS was originally supposed to take off for the first time to the Moon on August 29, but there was an engine problem. There were also several recalcitrant hydrogen leaks. The weather conditions didn’t help either, with the passage of two big storms in Florida: however, rockets are very sensitive to the weather (more than planes). The departure date of Artemis I has been constantly postponed, until November 16.

Even if the Artemis I mission must take off without astronauts on board, it is a crucial moment for NASA. The Orion ship must operate as if it were manned, making a round trip to the Moon. This is the first step in an ambitious program, the objective of which is to bring humans back to the Moon by 2027, more than 50 years after the end of the Apollo program missions.

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