The final major test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was called off today due to pressurisation concerns that prohibited technicians from securely loading propellants into the rocket. NASA said on the Artemis I live blog that the test, known as a wet dress rehearsal, has been postponed until at least Monday, April 4th.
“Teams have decided to scrub tanking operations for the wet dress rehearsal due to loss of ability to pressurise the mobile launcher,” NASA noted. Some fans on the mobile launcher — the platform that supports the rocket until launch — were unable to sustain positive pressure, which is necessary for preventing harmful gases from entering the rocket. NASA technicians were unable to “safely proceed” with the fuel-loading operation as a result.
Because it’s essentially a run-through of all the operations NASA will have to carry out when the first actual launch of SLS goes place, including fueling the 322-foot rocket with 700,000 gallons of propellant, this type of dress rehearsal is dubbed “wet.” NASA said in a press conference on Sunday evening that its crew is now on the launchpad troubleshooting the problem. The wet dress rehearsal will resume tomorrow, according to the agency.
The test was slated to start on April 1st and end on Sunday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Lightning damaged the towers around the SLS launchpad on Saturday night, causing NASA to experience some bad weather. One of these strikes was one of the strongest NASA has witnessed since installing the lightning protection system, according to Jeremy Parsons, deputy programme manager at NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems. In a message from the EGS Twitter account, Parsons stated, “It hit the catenary wire that runs between the 3 towers.” “System performed extremely well & kept SLS and Orion safe.”
As part of the Artemis programme, the SLS is expected to transport the Orion spacecraft on an uncrewed voyage around the Moon, dubbed Artemis I. That trip, which is provisionally scheduled for this summer, is intended to prepare the rocket — and NASA — for the journey that would eventually transport humans to the lunar surface.
On NASA’s live blog, as well as the agency’s Twitter account, you can stay up to speed on the test.
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