(ORDO NEWS) — NASA has tentatively scheduled the next attempt to fuel the Space Launch System rocket and hold a practice countdown for June 19 – two weeks after the rocket returns to the launch pad.
At a briefing on May 27, NASA officials said they were completing work on the rocket in the assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center. The rocket returned to the assembly shop a month ago after three attempts to complete a dress rehearsal (WDR) at Launch Complex 39B in the first half of April.
Cliff Lanham, NASA’s senior program vehicle operations manager, said the rocket rollout is scheduled for the evening of June 5th. The rollout will begin around midnight ET on June 6th.
This would allow NASA to make a fourth WDR attempt no earlier than June 19, depending on the weather and possible restrictions, he said.
NASA hopes that this fourth attempt will be successful: both the main and upper stages will be filled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and go through a countdown that stops just before the main stage engines ignite.
However, Tom Whitmyer, deputy assistant administrator for systems engineering, said that this time the agency “will add more time to make sure, so if we have to do more than one attempt at a wet dress rehearsal, we’ll be ready for it in time.”
Whitmyer and Lanham said they were confident the engineers had fixed problems that arose during the April WDR attempts, including replacing the helium check valve in the upper stage and tightening the flange bolts on the docking rod, which was thought to be the source of the hydrogen leak.
“Everything we’ve seen so far has been very positive in terms of the actual performance of the equipment,” Whitmyer said.
While the SLS was in the assembly building, Air Liquide, the contractor running the nitrogen distribution system, completed an upgrade to increase the amount of gas available to the SLS mission, a problem that had arisen during previous WDR attempts.
According to John Blevins, NASA chief engineer for SLS, the upgraded system passed a 34-hour test that exceeded the requirements for SLS.
Agency officials had previously said they would wait until the completion of the WDR to determine an official launch date for Artemis 1, but Whitmyer reiterated recent statements from officials, including NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, that NASA hopes to launch the mission in August.
NASA has released launch windows for the mission from July 26 to August 10, excluding August 1, 2, and 6, and from August 23 to September 6, excluding August 30, 31, and September 1.
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