NASA’s third attempt a Modified rehearsal The Space Launch System (SLS) was shut down on Thursday, and a liquid hydrogen leak was detected during tanking operations. The space agency plans another wet dress rehearsal for the Moon Rocket before April 21st.
This is the latest in a series of setbacks in the rocket’s wet dress rehearsal, including delays due to weather, ventilation fans malfunction and valve problems.
“All the problems we face are practical and lessons learned,” Artemis Mission Manager Mike Sarafin told a news conference Friday.
The wet suit rehearsal sits on top of a 322-foot rocket launcher filled with fuel and the team runs through a dummy countdown to get ready for launch day. This rehearsal is important for the launch of Artemis I, the first step toward the moon and backwards, and the first step in returning humans to the moon by 2026.
This wet dress rehearsal was originally scheduled for April 1, but was initially prevented by crew from loading fuel on the rocket due to technical issues. Prior to the next test date on April 11, the team discovered a faulty valve, which modified the drill and planned to supply fuel only to the SLS core, not its upper level.
Thursday’s third attempt was unfortunately not glamorous because the tail service mast discovered a liquid hydrogen leak from the navel, which connects the bottom of the mobile launcher to the center position. One of the two propellants used for the rocket is liquid hydrogen and the other is liquid oxygen.
By the time the wet dress rehearsal was stopped, 49% of the tank was filled with liquid oxygen and the other tank was only 5% filled with liquid hydrogen. The panel successfully cooled the lines used to load the impulse to the upper level, but was unable to send any impulse to the stage due to a problem with the valve.
Still, the team behind the SLS rocket says they have not given up. “There is no doubt that we will end this test campaign, and we will look at the hardware and data that will take us to the next steps,” Artemis Publishing Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson told a telecommunications meeting. “We will introduce this vehicle … we will be ready to fly.”
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