NASA removes Artemis 1 lunar rocket from launch pad after failed fueling attempts

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA has decided to move the Artemis 1 lunar rocket from the launch pad back to the Technology Facility to address some of the problems identified in a recent “wet fuel dress rehearsal” test.

A wet dress rehearsal – a series of key tests designed to show that the massive Artemis 1 Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle, Orion spacecraft and associated ground infrastructure are ready to go – began April 1 at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Site 39B ) NASA in Florida.

Everything was to be completed in about 48 hours, when the SLS would be loaded with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants and run several mock launch countdowns.

However, members of the Artemis 1 team encountered a number of issues that delayed these milestones, and they ended up shutting down to take over the Ax-1 private astronaut mission, which launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 8 from KSC pad 39A.

On April 12, the “wet test” was used again in a modified format: After discovering a faulty valve on the mobile launcher supporting the Artemis 1 stack, the team decided to refuel only the SLS main stage and not its upper stage.

Technicians began fueling the active stage on April 14 as planned, but stopped when they noticed that liquid hydrogen was leaking from one of the pipelines running from the mobile launch tower to the SLS.

After this refueling attempt was abandoned – the third in a row after the failed attempts on April 3 and 4 – the members of the Artemis 1 team took some time to analyze the data and their capabilities. Initially, they left the door open for the wet phase to resume next week, with another refueling attempt possibly as early as Thursday (April 21).

But this is no longer discussed. The team decided to roll the Artemis 1 booster off pad 39B back into the cavernous KSC assembly building to replace the failed valve and fix the leak.

“At this time, the agency will also review schedules and options for demonstrating pre-launch fuel loading operations,” NASA officials wrote in an update on Saturday (April 16).

According to NASA officials, the decision, or at least the timing of its adoption, was to some extent driven by external factors, in particular, the need to modernize “the supplier of nitrogen gas used for testing.”

Artemis 1 will send the Orion spacecraft uncrewed on a trip around the moon that will last about a month. NASA hopes to launch the mission this summer, but will not set an official date until the wet test phase is over and the teams analyze the data.

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