Several obstacles remain as NASA considers two launch dates for Artemis I in late September.
New York (CNN Business) -NASA has two new targets in mind for the launch of its enormous new moon rocket on an unmanned test mission: September 23 or September 27. However, there are still a number of obstacles that could prevent the Artemis I mission from taking off, any of which could cause the launch date to be advanced. Several obstacles remain as NASA considers two launch dates for Artemis I in late September.
The Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket has a leaky fuel issue that NASA is attempting to fix. On Saturday, September 3, the rocket explod during the final launch attempt at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center .
The duration of that is still uncertain.
Then there is the certification issue. NASA’s Florida launch facility is still under the control of the US Space Force, a branch of the military, and that region is refer to as the “Eastern Range.”
Making sure there is no harm to people or property with any launch attempt is the responsibility of the range staff. And as a result, the Eastern Range must also grant NASA the go-ahead for the rocket’s Flight Termination System, which will essentially kill the rocket in mid-air if it deviates from its intended path and begins to move into a populated region.
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However, because of current regulations, the system’s batteries must be recharged at a nearby indoor facility before the latest suggested launch dates. NASA is attempting to have that rule waived.
At the press conference on Thursday, Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, stated, “If they feel that is not the appropriate thing to do, certainly we will support that and stand down and look for our next launch attempt.”
He said, referring to the experiments NASA wants to do to stop the hydrogen leaks while the rocket is still on the launch pad, “but we will still proceed with the tanking test.”
It declined to provide information on time, merely stating that it “will consider NASA’s request” in a statement from the Space Force’s Eastern Range.
But on Thursday, NASA did share some information about what it had learned about the leak problem. According to Michael Sarafin, the mission manager for Artemis, the space agency has already acknowledged that there was an “inadvertent pressurization of the hydrogen line” that resulted in a pressure of 60 pounds per square inch as opposed to the desired 20 pounds per square inch.
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However, NASA does know why the over-pressurization took place in the first place, and human error was a factor. It is still unclear if that over-pressurization is what led to the leak.
Free said that since we made certain manual procedural changes between the attempt on Monday and the attempt on Saturday, our management team apologizes to [the operator in charge of overseeing the process].
According to Free, NASA is clearly trying to avoid that overpressurization. A “kinder and gentler, if you will, loading process” is what NASA is searching for. The capsule will orbit the moon for 239,000 miles before returning to Earth.
The Artemis I mission is only the first phase of a program that will eventually aim to send crewed trips to Mars and return people to the moon.
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