Disappointing tests for NASA’s Mega Rocket back to the garage

SLS at Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SLS at Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
painting: NASA

NASA, after three unsuccessful attempts to complete a rehearsal of its space launch system, has decided to return its giant rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The move probably means further delays for Artemis 1’s unmanned mission to the moon.

The space is tough – we understand – but the recently fired SLS rehearsal in wet clothes was downright sad.

In fact, NASA could not even conduct a modified launch rehearsal on Thursday when ground personnel tried to load fuel in the first stage of the rocket. There was a small hydrogen leak at the back of the umbilical cord. Blame To stop testing, NASA said it would resume a modified launch test as early as this week. The space agency quickly changed its plans and announced on Saturday that the rocket at 322 feet (98 meters) return For the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center Repair Facility.

The SLS launch rehearsal is ahead of the upcoming Artemis 1 mission, where NASA will try to launch an unmanned Orion capsule to and from the moon without landing on the moon. When the rocket was on Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rocket was supposed to be fully charged with fuel and the countdown was stopped until the four RS-25 engines fired, but none of this happened. This is not a brilliant result as SLS is a critical component of the Artemis program, which aims to land American astronauts on the moon later this decade.

A press release from NASA said that the decision to return the SLS and Orion capsule to VAB “is due to the need to upgrade the external nitrogen gas source used for testing.” The nature of these upgrades and the time it takes to implement them were not revealed, but the space agency said they would “seize the opportunity” to repair the rocket right in the hangar.

In particular, NASA must replace the file Defective helium non-return valve This prevented ground personnel from charging subcooled liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in the second stage of the rocket during the second wetsuit attempt. The valve is only 3 inches long and is only available when the rocket is inside VAB. NASA also uses this time to fix a leaking navel, review test results, review the schedule, and determine the remaining list of SLS test requirements.

Representatives of the space agency confirmed this. This is not a fundamental error with a rocket and that they only have to deal with minor or “annoying” problems. That may very well be the case, but the scale of the problems and the constantly adapting way of charging the fuel do not seem to be a problem.

In a conference call earlier today, “Rocket resurrection is a delicate dance,” said Tom Whitmer, deputy director of NASA’s Joint Exploration Systems Development Division. “Very difficult business.” So he said: WellAccording to Whitmyer, we will definitely rehearse “, including moving on to the final countdown before the launch of SLS.

The SLS Wet Dress began on April 1, but a variety of problems prevented the test from being completed. These problems include defective portable drive ventilation fans, faulty manual bleed valve, extremely cold temperatures and below zero fuel charge temperatures and the problem of third party nitrogen suppliers above. a Thunderstorm April 2 and Axiom of space mission The International Space Station, launched from the Kennedy Space Center on April 8, also contributed to the delay.

It will take ground personnel until Tuesday, April 26, to prepare SLS for a 4-mile (6.4 km) transition back to VAB, said Artemis launch manager Charlie Blackwell Thompson, who will take about 12 hours.

Blackwell Thompson described three possible scenarios for the development of events. The first is “Quick Move Option”, where the team takes over. Several problems and then Roll the rocket to the launch pad to get ready for the next wet dress. The second option may require more work in VAB, and at this point The rocket will be moved to the final launch configurationand the third option is all wet dress and going out in a dress Launch campaign (eg rocket will not be returned to VAB for final installation). She added that it is too early to say which of them is the main candidate.

As for the Artemis 1 mission, the next three launch windows are June 1-16, June 29-July 17 and July 26-August 9. At the press conference, Whitmire said “the early June window is challenging at the moment.”

This article has been updated to include comments and information provided during NASA’s April 18 press conference.

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