In the early hours of August 29th, the world was waiting for the Artemis 1 megarocket to lift off from its launch pad and commence its journey to the moon. However, NASA engineers experienced some technical issues while fueling the Space Launch System (SLS).
The engineers noticed that the launch controllers were not able to cool off the temperature required to control the super-cold propellant of one of the four main engines of the megarocket. This technical issue made NASA call off the Artemis 1 launch which was earlier planned to commence at 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT).
Cooling the SLS rocket engines is an essential step to take before allowing the cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to pass through them before the megarocket can lift off. However, only three engines successfully passed the test, as Engine No.3 fails to pass the test.
As soon as the engineers noticed that Engine No. 3 is not responding to the test, they troubleshot it several times but still get the same result. When the troubleshooting effort of the engineers has failed, NASA officials have to call off the launch to get the problem resolved before the next launch date.
NASA officials revealed the actual reason for calling off the launch with this statement, “Launch controllers condition the engines by increasing pressure on the core stage tanks to bleed some of the cryogenic propellants to the engines to get them to the proper temperature range to start them. Engine 3 is not properly being conditioned through the bleed process, and engineers are troubleshooting.”
NASA’s team also discovered something that looks like a crack within the thermal protection system material on one of the intertanks, connecting the megarocket’s massive liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks.
NASA engineers later discovered that the crack was located in the insulating foam on the flange, implying that the crack is not in the megarocket’s metal body. This issue made NASA restart the flow of liquid hydrogen into the tank to confirm the leakage.
As these two issues have prevented NASA from commencing with the Artemis 1 launch today, the agency is optimistic about launching once the issues are fully resolved. If NASA engineers successfully fix Engine No. 3 within a few days, NASA will attempt launching the megarocket again on September 2, or September 5, depending on weather conditions.
However, if the agency cannot meet the launch demand within any of these dates, the next launch attempt may likely be in October. Keep in mind that Artemis 1 Launch opportunities are limited based on the stage of the moon, reentry lighting conditions upon reentry, and many others. Let’s wish NASA engineers well as they fix Engine No. 3 and prepare the SLS rocket for future launch.