According to NASA officials, the Artemis I mega moon rocket is preparing for another attempt at its last prelaunch test in June.
The Artemis I rocket stack, which includes the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft, will be rolled back to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida later this month by a NASA team.
The wet dress rehearsal is a key test that duplicates every stage of launch without the rocket leaving the launchpad. This procedure entails adding fuel, performing a full countdown simulation, resetting the countdown clock, and draining the rocket tanks.
The rocket stack was hauled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building on April 26 after three tries at the wet dress rehearsal in April to resolve difficulties that arose during the tests.
So far, the team has focused on replacing a malfunctioning check valve on the rocket’s upper stage that caused a helium leak and addressing a hydrogen leak from the tail service mast. Meanwhile, Air Liquide, which supplies the launchpad with gaseous nitrogen, has been changing its pipeline design to better support Artemis I’s testing and launch.
During a news conference on Thursday, Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said the crew discovered a little piece of rubber that prevented the check valve from sealing properly.
The valve was discovered to be in good working order, and engineers are looking into the origins of the rubber, which wasn’t originally part of the valve, according to Free. The reason of the hydrogen leak has also been narrowed down by the team.
After the rocket stack returns to the launchpad in late May, it will take between 12 and 14 days for another wet dress rehearsal, which might happen in early to mid-June, according to Free.
Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program at Kennedy Space Center, stated, “We’ve done a lot of work to get the rocket ready to roll back out to the launchpad.” “Stopping at the VAB is a pit stop to come back in, do what we need to do and get back out to the pad as quickly as possible. So we’re working hard to meet that goal.”
The Artemis team is now evaluating launch windows for sending Artemis I to the moon in late summer: July 26 to August 9, August 23 to August 29, and September 2 to September 6.
“We also want to be realistic and upfront with you that it may take more than one attempt to get the procedures where we need them for a smoother launch count that gives us the best chance to making our launch windows,” Free stated.
The Artemis rocket stack will roll back into the building after its wet dress rehearsal to await launch day.
The hard process of testing new systems before launching a rocket has a long history, and the Artemis crew is encountering challenges similar to those faced by the Apollo and shuttle era teams, including repeated test attempts and delays before launch.