For the second time in 5 days, NASA has postponed the launch of the first mission of the Artemis series after a fuel leak was detected in the engines of the SLS rocket, news agencies reported Saturday.
The latest attempt to launch the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule took place Monday but was aborted after several failed attempts by NASA technicians to repair a leak in the propellant, supercooled liquid hydrogen pumped into the rocket tanks, Agerpres writes.
Launch preparations were officially canceled by Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis-I mission director, about three hours before the two-hour launch window was to open at 2:17 p.m. EDT (6:17 p.m. GMT).
It is not yet known when launch operations will resume, but according to the NASA schedule, the next possible launch windows are Monday and Tuesday.
The head of NASA, Bill Nelson, said mission managers will agree on the next launch date later Saturday, adding that the decision could be made to remove the rocket from the launch pad and transport it to the hangar where it was assembled for further checks and repairs. If the decision is made to take the rocket off the launch pad, the mission could be delayed until October, Bill Nelson said.
Fifty years after the last Apollo flight, the Artemis mission marks the beginning of the U.S. space program aimed at returning humans to the moon, a step that should allow astronaut crews to eventually reach Mars.
The goal of the Artemis-1 mission is to shoot the Orion capsule – this time without a human crew – around the moon using the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the most powerful rocket in the world, to verify that the fuel and associated capsule are safe for future manned flights – including the first female and the first black human to walk on the moon.
“This mission continues the dreams and hopes of many people. We are Generation Artemis from now on,” said NASA director , Bill Nelson, earlier this week.
The primary technical objective of the Artemis 1 mission is to test the capsule’s heat shield, which must return to Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of nearly 40,000 mph and at a temperature about half that of the surface of the sun.
The Orion capsule is expected to travel up to 64,000 kilometers beyond the moon, farther than any manned spacecraft has ever gone before.
After this initial mission, Artemis 2 will carry a crew of astronauts close to the moon in 2024, but without landing on the moon. The crew of the Artemis 3 mission will not have that honor until 2025 at the earliest. After that, NASA plans to launch a lunar mission every year.
The goal: a permanent human presence on the moon by building a space station in lunar orbit (called Gateway) and a science base on the surface of Earth’s natural satellite.