Engine problem leads NASA to clean up Artemis 1 launch


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.: A fuel leak and then an engine problem during final liftoff preparations led NASA to cancel the launch of its powerful new moon rocket Monday morning during a shakedown flight with three test dummies at edge.

The next launch attempt won’t be until Friday at the earliest.

As precious minutes ticked by, NASA repeatedly stopped and restarted refueling the Space Launch System rocket with nearly 1 million gallons of super-cold hydrogen and oxygen due to a leak. of highly explosive hydrogen at the same location that saw seepage during a dress rehearsal. back in the spring.

Then NASA ran into new problems when it was unable to properly cool one of the rocket’s four main engines, officials said. Engineers continued to work to gather data and identify the source of the problem after the announcement of the launch delay.

The rocket was to take off on a mission to put a crew capsule into orbit around the moon. The launch represents a milestone in the US quest to put astronauts back on the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo program ended 50 years ago.


The 322-foot (98-meter) spacecraft is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built, even surpassing the Saturn V that took Apollo astronauts to the moon.

As for when NASA might make another launch attempt, launch commentator Derrol Nail said the issue is still being analyzed, and “we have to wait to see what comes out of their test data.”

No astronauts were inside the rocket’s Orion capsule. Instead, test dummies, fitted with sensors to measure vibrations, cosmic radiation and other conditions, were strapped in for the six-week mission, which was to end with the capsule splashing down in the Pacific in October.

Even though there was no one on board, thousands of people crowded the coast to watch the rocket take off. Vice President Kamala Harris was expected among the VIPs.

The launch, when it does, will be the first flight of NASA’s lunar exploration program in the 21st century, named Artemis after Apollo’s mythological twin sister.

Assuming the test goes well, the astronauts will board for the second flight and fly around the moon and back as soon as 2024. A two-person lunar landing could follow by the end of 2025.

The problems seen Monday were reminiscent of the era of NASA’s space shuttle, when hydrogen leaks interrupted countdowns and delayed a series of launches in 1990.

Later that morning, NASA officials also spotted what they feared was a crack or other flaw in the main stage – the large orange fuel tank with four main engines on it – but said more. late that it appeared to be just a buildup of frost.

Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and his team also had to deal with a communication problem involving the Orion capsule.

Engineers raced to figure out an 11-minute delay in communication lines between launch control and Orion that occurred Sunday night. Although the issue was resolved Monday morning, NASA needed to know why it happened before committing to a launch.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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