After repeated delays, NASA has announced new tentative dates for the launch of the Artemis I mission. The launch could take place on September 23 or 27. For any of these dates to be possible, there is still a lot of work to be done. Thus, repairs to the rocket’s fuel system must be completed, clearances must be obtained from the Space Force, and conflicts with other missions on the space schedule must be avoided.
As part of the Artemis I mission, the first full-fledged launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will send the Orion spacecraft into orbit far beyond the moon, will take place. This will be an unmanned mission. It will serve as a test case for future missions that will send astronauts to the moon for the first time in decades.
The launch of the SLS rocket with the Orion spacecraft was scheduled to take place on August 29. But the mission was hampered by a problem with a hydrogen leak in one of the rocket’s main stage engines and the weather, which began to deteriorate rapidly. As a result, forty minutes before the opening of the window, the countdown timer was stopped and the launch was postponed to September 3rd. But even on this day, it was not possible to launch the Artemis I mission due to a hydrogen leak in the refueling connection.
After that, NASA decided to carry out repairs, leaving the rocket on the launch pad. It is planned to check the effectiveness of the repair on September 17 using a key cryogenic test. If all goes well, the first launch window will open on September 23rd.
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At the same time, NASA cannot permanently delay the launch of the Artemis I mission, as the flight termination system built into the rocket imposes its own limitations. It allows you to destroy the missile if something goes wrong. It is an independent system with its own batteries. After its activation, NASA has only a limited period of time to launch the rocket. The flight termination system can only be serviced inside the vertical assembly building. Thus, if due to weather conditions or for other reasons, the launch of the SLS does not take place in the scheduled window, then the rocket will again have to be sent to the assembly shop for maintenance of the flight termination system. NASA has already extended the battery life of the system, and now the agency will need to undergo another certification. The Space Force must evaluate the suitability of the system and decide whether the abort system can be safely operated or whether the rocket needs to be sent to a shop to service the system.
Dates of September 23 or 27 are considered to not overlap with NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission scheduled for September 26. If the agency is not able to launch the Space Launch System rocket on these dates, then the mission will have to be rescheduled towards the end of October. The timing will be affected by a manned mission to the ISS, scheduled for early October, and the need to return the rocket to the workshop to service the flight termination system.
Source: The Verge