NASA’s Artemis-1 fuel test to decide moon rocket’s fate

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NASA ran into some trouble early Wednesday as the space agency conducted a tanking test to determine whether a fuel leak was fixed on the Artemis-1 rocket, which hit the space agency’s launch of the Mega Moon rocket earlier this month. Explored the most recent launch attempt of . Kennedy Space Center in Florida. a

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The Space Launch System rocket is set to launch with the uncrewed Orion spacecraft on its maiden voyage, known as the Artemis-1 mission, sending Orion around the Moon and back.

A fuel test is underway at KSC on Wednesday morning to determine whether a fuel leak on the giant moon rocket is fixed, although soon after the liquid hydrogen “fast fill” on the rocket’s main stage began, another leak Happened.


During testing, NASA is trying a “kinder and gentler” approach, using reduced pressure to fill the 322-foot-tall SLS rocket with thousands of gallons of cryogenic fuel to determine if the liquid hydrogen leak was fixed was or not.

Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, explained that unlike liquid oxygen, which is “pumped” into rockets, hydrogen requires pressure to move the light molecules.

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“We are taking these changes at a slow pace. The decrease in pressure and the change in temperature will be gradual,” Whitmeyer said.

A NASA Moon rocket stands on Pad 39B for the Artemis 1 mission to orbit the Moon at Kennedy Space Center.

Hydrogen leak well outside safety range

After a brief delay due to a man within the blast danger zone, launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson gave a “go” to begin refueling at 7:30 a.m., about half an hour behind the original timeline.

During testing, both the SLS core and upper stages will go through all three phases of refueling, which include slow refueling, rapid refueling and refueling.

The mid-stage liquid oxygen filling was going on till mid-morning and the teams began a slow filling of liquid hydrogen.

However, when the team moved to rapidly replenish liquid hydrogen, NASA commentator Darrol Nell said that about 7% of leaks were detected, much higher than the 4% safety limit.

My mid-morning, NASA engineers successfully troubleshooted the leak, which happened the same way As leaked during the September 3 launch attempt.

After stopping propellant filling and heating the fuel line, liquid hydrogen refueling continued, but another minor leak occurred – although this is well below the safety limit.

Engineers are allowing this leak to continue by 10% through rapid fill in order to gather more data on the problem before stopping the flow of liquid hydrogen into the rocket.

The cryo-load test will be another long day for the NASA teams and is expected to be an 8- to 10-hour operation.

NASA has now attempted to remove the rocket from Earth twice. Both attempts ended with the launch being cancelled.

During the most recent attempt on 3 September, The launch director had to clear liftoff due to a fuel leak of liquid hydrogen.

The SLS requires more than 700,000 gallons of super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel to lift the 322-foot-tall rocket from the launchpad and into space. While an efficient rocket fuel, hydrogen is a small molecule that leaks easily. This has previously caused problems for the spacecraft program.

SLS has also experienced hydrogen leaks during wet dress rehearsal tests and a small leak during the first launch attempt.Â

Teams at KSC Launchpad 39B worked over the past two weeks to replace two quick-disconnect seals in the rocket in hopes of fixing the leak, which NASA managers described as a “major leak” above the 4% limit. did.

During refueling, the leak “increased” to more than 8%, said Jeremy Parsons, deputy manager of the KSC Exploration Ground Systems Program, about the September 3 attempt.

“The reason that 4% is set is like the flammability of hydrogen and air. So that’s where you start to enter a certain amount of flammability risk,” Parsons said.

“It’s actually a relatively conservative limit,” he said.

NASA SLS chief engineer John Belvins said that after reviewing all possible causes on the fault tree, he did not believe any single thing caused the leak.

On the 8-inch seal, engineers found an “indentation” that may have been caused by what NASA called FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” However, no FOD was found near the seal.

NASA has now attempted to remove the rocket from Earth twice.  Both attempts ended with the launch being cancelled.
NASA has now attempted to remove the rocket from Earth twice. Both attempts ended with the launch being cancelled.

forecasters will be watching for lightning

NASA requires certain weather criteria before refueling or launching an SLS rocket.

The forecasters along with the Space Force 45th Weather Squadron will continue to monitor the weather during the test.

On Wednesday, launch weather officials were monitoring some storm cells a few miles off the coast of the launch complex. However, rain will not stop the Test.

“Meteorologists currently predict favorable weather for testing, with a 15% chance of lightning within 5 nautical miles of the area, which meets Criteria required for testing,” NASA said in a blog on Tuesday.

The Fox Forecast Center is tracking possible rain showers in the morning and subsequent storms during Wednesday’s cryo-loading test.

If the chance of a lightning strike is greater than 20% within 5 nautical miles of the launch area, the launch director will not “go” to begin tanking the rocket’s main stage.

Refueling may not start even if 24-hour temperatures are below 41.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above 94.5 degrees, but that shouldn’t be a problem in mid-September. The forecast high on Wednesday will be in the low 80s.

Next SLS launch depends on this test and the Space Force‘s decision

If the refueling test is successful, the teams are aiming for liftoff during the 70-minute window opening on September 27 at 11:37 a.m. However, it all depends on the outcome of Wednesday’s cryo-loading. And if NASA gets clearance from Space Force.

“Ultimately, we’ve mitigated everything we can think of, and we’ll know in (the next) 36 hours or so, or 48 hours how effective those mitigations were,” Belvins said Monday.

A launch date of September 27 and a backup window of October 2 are being reviewed by the Space Force, which manages the Eastern Launch Range.

Earlier, NASA said that the Moon rocket would need to be rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) due to safety requirements to replace the Flight Termination System (FTS) battery. FTS is required on all rockets and the vehicle will self-destruct if it goes off track and threatens the public.

“They are responsible for all the vehicles they launch, not just ours,” Blevins said of Space Force. “And they will decide whether or not we meet the requirements for public safety and will follow that decision.”

The agency submitted a waiver to extend FTS certification and is waiting to hear back from the Space Force.

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