NASA will move its lunar rocket from the launchpad for repairs

NASA will move its lunar rocket from the launchpad for repairs

Technical issues have delayed the agency’s plans for a “wet dress rehearsal”, which could delay the launch schedule.

NASA’s new large lunar rocket is returning to the garage for some minor repairs, possibly with its first launch being postponed back to late summer or later.

This means that NASA is currently considering a defeat, trying to complete what it calls a wet dress rehearsal for rockets – a detailed countdown exercise called “wet” because it involves loading more than 700,000 gallons of ultracold liquid hydrogen and liquid. . Oxygen in rocket propellant tanks.

Over the past month, a rocket called the Space Launch System has been sitting on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida testing ground systems. The tests were to end in a wet dress rehearsal.

However, due to various technical errors during the countdown, three attempts to conduct that exercise ended early. The purpose of the rehearsal with the new rocket system is to identify and solve such problems.

Technicians also found that a valve on the upper stage was malfunctioning, and for a third training effort last Thursday, the test was modified so that only the propellant tanks on the booster stage could be filled. But then a hydrogen leak was found in the tail service mast umbilical attached to the bottom of the rocket and a rehearsal scrub was performed. The oxygen tank was not half full, and hydrogen refueling had just begun.

Last week, NASA officials said they hoped to fix the hydrogen leak while the rocket was still on the launchpad. But on Monday he changed his mind. Next week, the rocket will be brought back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where technicians will have easy access to parts of the rocket. This will allow the upper phase valve to be replaced.

At the same time, an off-site vendor that provides nitrogen gas – used to purify hazardous gases – will upgrade its system. Between the two rehearsal attempts, the countdown was delayed due to a disruption in the nitrogen supply.

“The Mega Moon rocket is working very well,” Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator at NASA’s Common Exploration Systems Development, told a news conference Monday. “I think we’re getting really smart with this rocket. But we have some work to do. ”

A key component of NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts back to the moon is the space launch system, several years behind schedule and billions of dollars more than budgeted. With the latest issues, it will be challenging to prepare the rocket in time for the launch during the two-week window in early June, Mr. Whitmeyer said. There are additional two-week opportunities in late June and late July.

“We’re currently working on a few different schedule options that we’ll be reviewing with the management team this week,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Launch Director.

One is to make the minimum necessary repairs – an upper stage valve and hydrogen leak – and return to the launchpad as soon as possible for wet dress training. The second option would involve some additional work required to build the rocket for launch. Both options require another trip back to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The third option is to fully prepare the rocket for launch and then rehearse and launch both without returning to the building.

Sneha Mali

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