NASA lunar rocket launch postponed due to rubber debris

(ORDO NEWS) — The long-suffering Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft was transported from the launch pad to the vertical assembly building a week and a half ago.

It was planned that the entire system would be re-examined and the shortcomings that prevented the dress rehearsal of the launch would be eliminated. However, during preparations for repairs, suspicious debris was discovered, due to which a re-attempt of the final tests is delayed.

Recall that in mid-April, after three interrupted “wet dress rehearsals” of the launch ( WDR, wet dress rehearsal ), the fully assembled rocket with the spacecraft on it was sent to the VAB hangar (vertical assembly building).

There were several problems: part of it was connected with the ground infrastructure, the other – directly with the nodes of the Space Launch System ( SLS ).

They decided to roll the carrier under the roof in order to fix the upper stage inspection valve and once again inspect the entire structure, which had spent almost six weeks in the open.

The SLS was in the hangar on April 26, and technicians from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) got to work.

At the same time, employees of the Exploration Ground Systems ( EGS , ground support systems for research missions) dealt with a previously identified leak in the pipelines of the service mast.

And on May 5, the agency scheduled a conference to discuss a new WDR test date and possible launch windows, given the delay that has already occurred.

For those who have been following the SLS program for a long time , the course of this meeting was hardly a surprise. Yes, all deadlines again “move to the right”. EGS assistant administrator Jim Free said that a piece of rubber was found in the second stage inspection valve ( ICPS ).

The node itself was fixed, but now it is impossible to move further on the schedule to the tests. The first step is to locate the garbage source and fix the problem, if any. Just like that, pollution or extra fragments do not appear on such a technique (and even if they do, then where, how and why is calculated in advance).

So far, the approximate timeline is as follows. By May 11, a preliminary assessment of the readiness of the SLS for the new “wet dress rehearsal” of the launch will be ready. After that, a date will be set for the removal of the rocket with the ship to the launch pad.

This will take a fair amount of time, taking into account all the preparatory activities and the necessary checks at each stage. Thus, the WDR will take place somewhere in early to mid-June. Well, the launch itself “moves” to the third of the planned “windows” this summer – from July 26 to August 9.

However, the assistant administrator of EGS noted that neither he nor anyone in the agency could and would not name any specific dates.

According to him, given the experience of programs of similar complexity in the past, it makes no sense to promise any deadlines – at each stage of preparation there is a chance of a hitch.

Safety, reliability and fulfillment of the mission are first of all, so no one will rush and turn a blind eye to the smallest flaws. It always costs more later.

So Free said he and his colleagues are looking at “a couple of time periods throughout August” as opportunities to launch.

That is, the launch may move even further than the previously designated “windows”. And this, in turn, can lead to another postponement, since the optimal launch dates for the Moon are not given every day.


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