The launch of NASA’s Artemis I mega-rocket has been canceled again due to a fuel leak

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft is seen atop the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B on August 29, 2022.NASA/Joel Kowsky

  • The second launch attempt of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket was delayed Saturday due to a liquid hydrogen leak.

  • Artemis I is an uncrewed test flight that will lay the groundwork for future Artemis missions with astronauts.

  • NASA has yet to say when it plans to make another launch attempt.

The launch of NASA’s Artemis I moon rocket was delayed Saturday after the launch team ran into power problems.

At 7:15 am ET, a leak occurred as engineers increased the pressure in the liquid hydrogen flow in the core stage.

“Teams encountered a liquid hydrogen leak while loading propellant into the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage,” NASA said in a blog post. “Multiple troubleshooting attempts to address the area of ​​the leak by reinstalling a seal on the quick disconnect where liquid hydrogen is fed to the rocket did not correct the problem.”

After troubleshooting efforts were unsuccessful, Artemis’s launch manager aborted the launch.

NASA has yet to say when it plans to make another launch attempt.

This is the second scrub – NASA’s term for canceling a launch on a particular day – for the mega Moon rocket. During NASA’s first launch attempt on August 29, sensors suggested that one of the rocket’s four main stage RS-25 engines did not cool to a safe temperature in time for launch.

dozens of people standing on grass sitting in lawn chairs watching upright rocket roll from tall building at night

Invited guests and NASA employees watch as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket lifts off from the Vehicle Assembly Building, August 16, 2022.NASA/Joel Kowsky

The rocket stack may be repositioned in the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, causing further delays. In August, NASA engineers tested the rocket’s flight termination system, which began a 20-day launch schedule. If the launch is delayed beyond those 20 days, engineers will have to bring the rocket back for additional testing, Jeremy Parsons, deputy director of NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems, said at a news conference Friday.

NASA engineers also deal with weather, a common cause of launch delays. The forecast before Saturday’s attempt showed 60% favorable weather conditions at the start of the launch window. “On any given day, there’s about a one-in-three chance we’ll have a scrub for whatever reason,” NASA meteorologist Melody Levin said in a briefing on Friday, Sept. 2. “Of those chances to rub, there’s a 50 percent chance it’s due to weather,” Levin said.

More than 400,000 visitors were expected to gather near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Saturday to watch the inaugural launch, according to the Space Coast tourism office.

NASA's Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center on September 3, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NASA’s Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center on September 3, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

NASA has spent 17 years and an estimated $50 billion developing the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, according to The Planetary Society.

During the Artemis I mission, NASA aims to fly the Orion crew capsule around the moon — farther than any human-built spacecraft has ever flown — before returning for a crash in the Pacific Ocean.

There will be no humans on board during the Artemis I launch. But if the spacecraft successfully completes its mission, NASA plans to put astronauts in the Orion module for another trip around the moon during the Artemis mission II. All is set for Artemis III, on which NASA hopes to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in 2025.

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