NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar rocket returns to launch pad for critical tests
NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission is back on the launch pad.
Technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida began bringing EDT (0410) out of the Artemis 1 Stack – Orion Crew Capsule’s top Space Launch System (SLS) Rocket – Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) around 12:10 p.m. . GMT) Monday morning (June 6), once again carrying a Mega Moon rocket trekking 4-miles (6.4 kilometers) to the historic launch complex 39B.
The overnight journey took about 10 hours, Artemis 1 reached the pad just before 10:00 EDT (1400 GMT). Now, Vehicle Stack and Ground System are waiting for another attempt to fuel the rocket and emulate the launch countdown for a serious series of tests known as weight dress rehearsals, which are expected to begin on June 19.
Artemis 1 will be the highly anticipated debut journey for SLS, the development of which has been marked by many delays and cost increases. (Orion had flown into Earth orbit once before in 2014.)
The mission will make an unmanned Orion flight around the moon and return in preparation for future Artemis missions, aimed at bringing humans back to the moon for the first time since 1972. So NASA is taking all precautions to ensure that the rocket’s launch will be a success, including selection. Rubbing the first wet dress rehearsal in April to give time for further maintenance after three failed attempts to load SLS with cryogenic fuel.
The first rollout of Artemis 1 from VAB to Pad 39B took place on March 17, followed by a wet dress rehearsal starting April 1. Unable to complete the tests, NASA decided to roll out the vehicle and its Mobile Launch Platform (MLP). ) Returned to VAB for repair on 25th April. Technicians addressed the root causes of early wet dress scrubs and used the time in VAB to accelerate the implementation of other scheduled improvements.
During the first wet dress attempt, ground teams encountered problems loading fuel into SLS’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), which is responsible for Orion’s orbital insertion and trans-lunar injection burns. Loose flange bolts in the umbilical line connecting MLP to ICPS contribute to hydrogen leakage. NASA’s investigation found that the seals on those bolts deteriorated to a certain extent as they got older and applied torque probes to tighten the affected hardware.
Other repairs were also aimed at resolving the cryo-loading problems of SLS. A helium check valve was replaced on the ICPS and the umbilical boot responsible for quickly disconnecting MLP arms from the SLS during liftoff was changed.
Since the Artemis 1 stack from the Pad 39B has been absent for the past five weeks, the upgrade in the launch complex was able to move ahead of schedule. Notably, the NASA contractor supplying gas nitrogen handling and supply infrastructure on the launch pad was able to nearly double the facility’s capacity by adding another method to gas production.
Large amounts of air nitrogen are used during wet dress rehearsals as well as during launches. On the one hand, gas cycles are run through rockets and all fuel tanks and hoses on the ground infrastructure to help clean the ship’s cavities before and after refueling. The new improvements will allow systems to reach their full design capabilities and facilitate up to 32 hours of fuel testing, NASA officials said.
The upcoming wet dress rehearsal for Artemis 1 is set to begin on June 19 and will last about 48 hours. The countdown simulation will see the rocket through the actual pre-flight and the fuel process just before the moment of engine ignition.
Ground team at KSC to coordinate over 700,000 gallons of loading operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers at Mission Control, engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and Space Force Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. 2.65 million liters) in cryogenic fuel rocket and launch pad infrastructure.
A series of countdown drills, holds and aborts, as well as various simulated weather conditions will test the ability of ground teams to load and unload propellants through a variety of launch conditions. After a few days of successful wet wear, teams will return SLS and Orion to the VAB to analyze test data, determine the vehicle’s flight readiness, and prepare the rocket for actual launch.
NASA officials have avoided setting a date for the Artemis 1 mission, requiring a review of the results of the wet dress rehearsal, but expressing optimism for the late-August window, which will only be possible if everything goes smoothly. The next few weeks. If the SLS brings some additional hurdles, NASA has by default published a list of future launch opportunities by 2023.