Scrubbed Artemis 1 Launch, Worries About Incomplete Exercises

Scrubbed Artemis 1 Launch, Worries About Incomplete Exercises
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SLS on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SLS on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image: NASA

On Monday, NASA failed in its first attempt to launch the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission with engineers involved. the engine struggles to solve the cooling problem. This is a completely surprising result, given that NASA failed to complete a single wetsuit exercise in which four were tested earlier in the year. The space agency is winging it, the failed launch attempt effectively serving as a fifth wetsuit exercise, a troubling sign.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was supposed to launch on Monday morning, but instead we’re wondering about the state of the program as a whole. NASA will release more information about the rocket this evening, including whether a Friday or Monday launch will be possible, or whether the 322-foot-tall (98-meter) rocket will have to travel the now-familiar 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) overhaul. Return to the Car Assembly Building for

Crucial to the flightless SLS megarocket NASA’s Artemis program, constantly persistent and wanting to return to the moon. For Artemis 1 mission, an unmanned Orion rocket will be sent on a multi-week mission to the Moon and back. A successful integration test of SLS and Orion will set the stage for a crewed Artemis 2 mission in about two years and a crewed lunar landing mission later this decade.

A Friday launch looks unlikely, and not just because of the bad weather forecast. of NASA attempt to start on Monday the countdown clock didn’t come close to succeeding, with T-40 minutes to go. “Bleed the engine” problem prevented one of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines reaching the ultra-cold temperature required for liftoff, resulting in scrambling.

Thousands of spectators and hundreds of reporters gathered near the starting point. Vice President Kamala Harris also attended the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Everyone was disappointed, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to admit that Monday’s launch was always going to be difficult. When ground crews failed to complete one full-fledged wetsuit exercise, it seemed hard to believe that NASA would somehow get things right during the first attempt to launch the Artemis 1 mission.

Indeed, problems began almost immediately early Monday morning, with lightning threatening refueling operations for about an hour. Working under an accelerated timeline, ground crews continued the six-hour refueling process. The group encountered a problem when switching from a slow tank to a fast tank with a leaky 8-inch inlet valve causing hydrogen readings to rise. The leak was resolved by slowly returning to charging and going through the process again, allowing the hydrogen tank to be completely filled in the main phase.

While using the fuel to cool the four RS-25 engines, the team found that one of the engines – engine number three – refused to cool down to the required ultra-low temperatures. Engineers worked on the previously established troubleshooting guidelines in an attempt to get more liquid hydrogen into the engine. They tried to increase the pressure in the tank, but this led to the discovery of another problem: an apparently leaking vent valve located between the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, NASA’s Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said engineers “wanted to increase the pressure in the tank to create a hydrogen bleed,” but “the vent valve didn’t work.” It was the last straw, and the team “decided it was appropriate to call the scrub because we weren’t going to open the two-hour window,” Sarafin said, adding: “We knew we needed more time.” He said the problem was not the engine itself, but “the bleed system that brings the engine into thermal conditions.” insisted that it was.

The issue of engine bleeding is one of an unknown number of items not tested during wetsuit exercises. In June, NASA officials completed their final wetsuit he said 90% of all test objectives have been met and the remaining 10% have not been disclosed in any detail. Last wet clothes was not completed due to an unresolved hydrogen leak associated with a faulty quick-connect fitting. For this exercise, NASA officials had hoped to run the countdown clock to T-10 seconds, but they never got past T-29 seconds, leaving much in doubt about the final launch phase.

After the partial completion of the third wetsuit in April, The SLS was sent to the Automotive Assembly Building for repairs, returning to Launch Pad 39B in early June. During the four exercises, engineers noted a number of seemingly minor problems, faulty ventilation fans in the mobile launcher, a misconfigured mechanical vent valve, extreme cold temperatures and frost during fuel loading, and a small hydrogen leak in the tail service pylon. umbilical, problems with the gaseous nitrogen supplier and a faulty helium check valve that needed to be replaced.

However, during its fourth life cycle, the SLS was finally fully fueled, with more than 755,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen added to the rocket’s two stages. Despite falling short of 10% of test goals, Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s intelligence systems manager, he said “We think we’ve had a really successful exercise,” and there were risks involved in running a fifth Test.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for intelligence systems development, echoed those earlier sentiments, saying there was no need for another wetsuit exercise. “We would have another cycle of swings and turns,” he said, which would bring additional risks, including attrition. “We won’t know until we know, but we won’t know until we try,” Free said. “We felt we were in the best position to try.”

Keith Cowing, editor of and a former NASA rocket scientist, said the space agency viewed Artemis 1’s first launch attempt as essentially a fifth-grade dress rehearsal. Speaking to me by phone, Cowing said NASA should have done all the necessary testing to prevent these new problems from the start.

“These things happen,” Cowing said. “But it’s a legacy facility with various pieces of rockets that have flown before.” With legacy equipment, Cowing cites that the current SLS configuration “uses as much of the existing equipment in the Space Shuttle inventory as possible to save costs and accelerate the schedule.” according to to NASA. These elements include the main stage boosters and engines, along with the Integrated Spacecraft and Payload Element. “NASA shouldn’t expect everything to work as expected because there will be integration issues,” Cowing said. He added: “Testing is good and should be done methodically, so when you finally try to launch, you know what you’re trying to do instead of using launch attempts. in fact, actually wet clothes.”

Cowing is concerned about the state of the program and the already archaic nature of SLS. Unlike SpaceX’s rockets, which can be tweaked and repaired on the launch pad, the SLS must return to the Vehicle Assembly Building for hardware adjustments (which may be the case with the aforementioned leaking vent valve, but we’ll have to wait for the official word from NASA). With an estimated cost of $4.1 billion per launch, Cowing predicts that SLS launches will be rare events. referring to Earlier this year, NASA’s inspector general, Paul Martin, called the price tag “unsustainable.”

NASA officials are likely feeling the pressure, so there is a desire to finally get the SLS off the ground. It makes for some awkward theater, but Monday’s scrubs being a good example. The probability of a launch was extremely low (at least that’s how I assessed it), but NASA did not hesitate to publicize the event and invite a number of high-ranking guests and famous guests.

The megarocket doesn’t seem ready for launch, but NASA is trying its best to convince us that it is. Unfortunately, the “alleged” launch attempt earlier this week likely won’t be the last.

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