NASA’s Artemis 1 satellite rocket underwent a critical refueling test on Wednesday, September 21, potentially keeping it on track until the planned September launch. 27 rise.
Artemis 1 will send an unmanned Orion capsule into lunar orbit using the giant Space launch system (SLS) rocket. NASA tried to launch the mission in September. 3, but was prevented by a leakage of liquid hydrogen propellant During the “quick disconnect” on the SLS main stage, the interface connects the rocket to the propellant line from the mobile launch tower.
Artemis 1 team replaced two seals Around the fast disconnect in September. 9 then scheduled a fueling test to see if the fix worked. That test took place Wednesday at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, and it brought good news for the mission.
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“We were able to accomplish all of our goals today,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director with the Reconnaissance Earth Systems Program at KSC, in a brief speech Wednesday that covered much of the test. day.
This is not to say that everything went perfectly. For example, during liquid-hydrogen loading, the leak reappeared during rapid separation. However, the team was able to overcome the problem; they heated the quick disconnect, which allowed for “repositioning” that reduced the leakage rate to acceptable levels.
Artemis 1 personnel also noticed a distinct hydrogen leak during a “pre-pressurization test” that was part of Wednesday’s activities. NASA officials said the test “allowed engineers to calibrate the parameters used to condition the engines during the terminal count and confirm the timelines before launch day to reduce schedule risk before launch day.” explained in a blog post (opens in new tab) after the test is over.
This second leak was smaller than the other, and the Artemis 1 team was able to contain it, agency officials said.
NASA is currently tracking September. With a possible backup date of October 27 as the launch target for Artemis 1. 2. Despite Wednesday’s success, it’s too early to officially commit to any of those dates, Blackwell-Thompson said.
“I think we’ll take the data and see what it tells us,” he said. But, he added, “I was very encouraged by the test today and that we achieved all of our goals.”
In the next two weeks, some other things must go Artemis 1’s way for the mission to begin. The weather, for example, has to cooperate, and there’s never a certainty on Florida’s Space Coast. The mission must also refuse certification of the flight termination system (FTS), which is designed to destroy the SLS if it veers off course during flight.
The US Space Force, the Eastern Range for rocket launches, issued Artemis 1’s FTS certification for 25 days, which time has now expired. The mission applied for a waiver; if not, the giant missile will have to roll from Pad 39B to KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building, the only place where recertification can take place.
“Right now, we’re still in technical discussions with Range,” Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for General Intelligence Systems Development, said at a news conference Monday (Sept. 19), referring to the waiver. situation. “It was very productive and collaborative.”
Artemis 1 has already received such an FTS waiver extending the certification period from 20 to 25 days.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will send astronauts around month in 2024, and Artemis 3 will put the boots down near the Moon’s south pole a year or two later. The Artemis The goal of the program is to establish a long-term human presence on and around the Moon and use the skills and knowledge gained to deliver astronauts to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s.
Mike Wall is the author of “there (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter. @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).
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