NASA nears second launch of Artemis moon rocket in first test flight



© Reuters.NASA’s next-generation lunar rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) on top of the Orion crew module, stands at launch complex 39B as rain clouds roll over the area, on Artemis 1 at Cape Canaveral Mission delayed until first test launch


(change fuel driving test day to Thursday night in paragraph 3)

Joe Skipper and Steve Gorman

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Reuters) – Ground crews at Kennedy Space Center in Florida began the final day of preparations for launch on Friday, the second attempt by NASA to launch a giant next-generation moon The eve of the rocket. Test flight, technical problems thwarted the first test five days later.

Mission leaders are still “out” for Saturday afternoon’s liftoff of the 32nd floor Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion capsule to launch NASA’s Moon-to-Mars Artemis program, the Apollo lunar mission successor – a century ago, NASA officials said.

The space center’s deputy program director, Jeremy Parsons, told reporters Friday that tests on Thursday night showed technicians appeared to have repaired a leaking fuel line, which led to NASA’s decision to halt Monday’s initial launch operations.

Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters late Thursday that two other critical issues with the rocket itself — a malfunctioning engine temperature sensor and some cracks in the foam insulation — had been largely resolved.

The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions during Saturday’s two-hour launch window, which ends at 2:17 p.m. ET, said Melody Lovin, launch weather officer for the U.S. Space Force at Cape Canaveral. minutes (6:17pm). GMT). ), and an alternate start time on Monday.

“The weather is still very good for Saturday’s launch attempt,” Lowen said. “I don’t think the weather will be a hindrance to either launch window. »

Still, she added, the chance of a launch being scrubbed on any given day is about one in three, due to weather or any other reason.

Dubbed Artemis I, the mission marks the maiden flight of the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, according to NASA’s partnership with Boeing (NYSE:Co and lockheed martin Corporation (NYSE: ), respectively.

SLS will launch Orion around the moon and return on a 37-day uncrewed test flight designed to put both vehicles through their paces before astronauts on follow-up missions planned for 2024.

If the first two Artemis missions are successful, NASA aims to have astronauts on the moon, including the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface, as soon as 2025, although many experts believe the deadline may be several days past. year.

From 1969 to 1972, 12 astronauts walked on the moon on six Apollo missions, the only spaceflight that still put humans on the lunar surface.

Apollo was born out of the Cold War-era U.S.-Soviet space race, while NASA’s renewed focus on the moon is more science-driven and includes international partnerships with space agencies in Europe, Japan and Canada, as well as commercial rocket companies such as SpaceX.

Unlike Apollo, later lunar missions aimed to establish a long-term sustainable base of operations on the lunar surface and orbit as a springboard for eventual human exploration of Mars.

NASA’s first step is to lift off using the SLS, the largest new vertical launch system NASA has built since the Apollo-era Saturn V rocket.

If the Artemis 1 mission is delayed again for some reason, NASA could try again on Monday or Tuesday. After that, rules limiting how long a rocket can stay in its launch tower could require the spacecraft to return to its assembly building before another liftoff attempt, Parsons said. Such a move would involve a delay of more than a few days or a week.

SLS and Orion have been in development for more than a decade and have experienced years of delays and skyrocketing costs, reaching at least $37 billion last year. But the Artemis program has also created tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade for the aerospace industry, according to NASA.

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