NASA announced Saturday that it will continue to launch its $4.1 billion Artemis I rocket to the moon.
The two-hour kickoff window opens at 2:17 p.m., and the teams will meet on Thursday for another preview before the official countdown begins.
On Thursday, the Space Launch Delta 45 air squadron updated its forecast to predict a better chance for good weather, now With a 60% chance for good conditions, up from the initial 40% forecast on Tuesday. The chance of good weather increases to 70% in the backup window Monday evening.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll have some clear weather to work with during the Saturday afternoon attempt,” Mark Burger, launch officer for the 45th Weather Squadron, said at a news conference Tuesday evening. “However, the likelihood of weather disruption at any point in the countdown still seems pretty high to me.”
If it rubs off on Saturday, the next window falls on Labor Day, a 90-minute opportunity that opens at 5:12 p.m. tank.
The Space Launch System’s massive Orion spacecraft combination hit several hurdles on Monday morning’s first shot to send NASA’s Artemis I mission into space, but an engine problem eventually forced the scrub.
The culprit was a system known as a bleeder system that fed cryogenic propellant from the main stage to the four RS-25 engines at its base. During a bleed test leading up to Monday’s aborted flight, sensors indicated that one of the engines had not cooled to acceptable levels.
All four must be temperature controlled so that they are not stressed when the liquid hydrogen (LH2) cools down to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit when the engines go full throttle on liftoff.
Combined with liquid oxygen cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, LH2 produces 2.2 million pounds of thrust, which, combined with two solid rocket boosters, gives the SLS 8.8 million pounds of thrust during flight.
Other issues during Monday’s attempt involved the loading of cryopropellants, which required adjustments when a potential hydrogen leak was discovered in one of the umbilical feed lines. To address both issues, NASA is changing how Saturday’s countdown will proceed.
“We’ve agreed on what’s called the first option, which is to quickly change the loading procedure and start cooling our engine sooner,” Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said. “We also agreed to do some work on the pad to address the leak we saw in the mast hub in the hydrogen tail service.”
NASA SLS manager John Honeycutt said the teams were not entirely sure if the engine temperature was actually off target, and that it could be a faulty sensor based on readings from other equipment on site.
“I think we understand the physics of how hydrogen works, but not how the sensor behaves,” he said, “which doesn’t match the physics of the situation.”
He said replacing the sensor on the launch pad would be difficult and require a pullback, but instead they would prepare to “fly using the data we have today.”
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Sensors from Monday’s attempt showed that three of the four engines were 10 degrees closer to the target of minus 420 degrees Fahrenheit, and the fourth engine was about 40 degrees hotter, prompting managers to do the scrubbing, Honeycutt said.
“We’re going to try to launch,” Sarafin said. “And you know you’ve come to this previous attempt— [Monday’s] try — you know we said we wouldn’t start the engines if we couldn’t thermally condition them. And that’s the same posture we’re going into on Saturday. I don’t see it differently.”
If it takes off, the rocket will surpass the 7.6 million pound thrust of the Apollo missions’ Saturn V rockets to the moon, making it the most powerful rocket ever launched from Earth.
Artemis I was to send the uncrewed Orion capsule on a multi-week mission to travel 1.3 million miles into lunar orbit at a speed of 24,500 mph, generating temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and return home as the fastest spacecraft ever tested by man. .
The goal is to test the limits of the launch system and spacecraft so that it can transition to human missions, including Artemis II, an orbital lunar mission slated for 2024, and Artemis III, which aims to return humans, including the first woman, to the lunar surface. Since 1972. This flight could happen in 2025.
But first I have to get Artemis off the ground.
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