Garamba, again failed. The launch of NASA’s new mega-rocket to the moon was canceled at the last minute on Saturday, the second time in less than a week, another delay in the launch of America’s flagship lunar return program, Artemis.
Liftoff was originally scheduled for 2:17 p.m. local time, with a two-hour launch window. But after more than three hours of trying to resolve a fuel leak during the rocket fueling process, the launch teams ran out of time.
A new attempt may take place on Monday or Tuesday. After Mars, no new launch is possible before September 19 due to the position of Earth and Moon.
Refueling is not done
Just before 6 a.m. local time, the rocket was given the green light to begin filling its tanks with cryogenic fuel. In total, about three million liters of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
But at 07:15, a leak was detected at the base of the rocket, at the level of the pipe leading to the hydrogen tank. NASA tweeted that the flight was aborted after crews tried three times in a row to resolve the issue, “without success.”
On Monday, during the first attempt, the launch was canceled at the last moment due to technical problems, first a similar leak, overcome, and then the cooling of the engines.
A remote task
The orange and white SLS rocket, which is due to have its first flight on Saturday, has been in development for more than a decade to become the world’s most powerful. Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, this first test mission, without a crew on board, is the first phase of the Artemis program, which aims to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon, allowing it to be used later. A swing to Mars.
The Orion capsule on top of the Artemis 1 rocket can be tested to see if it is safe to carry astronauts in the future. Thanks to this new ship, the US space agency wants to reconnect with distant human exploration, the moon is 1,000 times farther than the International Space Station.
The trip is expected to last a total of six weeks. Orion will travel as far as 64,000 kilometers behind the moon, the furthest of any living spacecraft so far.
Artemis 1’s main mission is to test the capsule’s heat shield, the largest ever built. When it returns to the Earth’s atmosphere, it will endure a speed of 40,000 km per hour and half as hot as the surface of the Sun.
In total, the ship will have to travel about 2.1 million kilometers until it lands in the Pacific Ocean.