NASA Announces Third Launch Attempt Date for Its "Mega Lunar Rocket"

NASA Announces Third Launch Attempt Date for Its “Mega Lunar Rocket”

The rollout began Thursday, March 17 at 5:47 p.m. EDT.

NASA’s “mega moon rocket” is now due to make its third lift-off attempt on September 27, the US space agency has announced.

The Artemis 1 rocket is made up of the six-person Orion capsule perched atop the 30-story Space Launch System (SLS) – dubbed the “mega moon rocket” – and was originally scheduled to make its maiden voyage to the moon and back on 29 august.

But technical difficulties thwarted the rocket’s first two takeoff attempts. NASA canceled the rocket’s first attempt because engineers were unable to cool one of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines to a safe temperature in time for liftoff. The agency said it had fixed the problem, which it blamed on a faulty temperature sensor. Then, on the rocket’s second attempt, an alarm sounded as the craft was loaded with its supercooled liquid hydrogen, alerting engineers to a gap in the seal of one of the rocket’s engines. . Engineers tried to plug the leak three times, without success, NASA said.

Related: Lightning strikes the ‘Mega Moon rocket’ launch pad of the Artemis I mission during testing

NASA said the leak was at a “quick disconnect” where the SLS’s core stage met the rocket’s mobile launch tower fuel line, which the agency repaired by replacing two seals at the leak point. . The US space agency says the first launch opportunity will be on September 27, with a backup opportunity on October 2. NASA engineers plan to demonstrate that the leak is plugged by performing a test to pump propellant into the craft on September 17.

“The updated dates represent careful consideration of several logistical topics, including the added value of having more time to prepare for the cryogenic demonstration test, and subsequently more time to prepare for launch,” they said. wrote NASA officials in a blog post announcing the new launch. Date. “The dates also allow managers to ensure teams have enough rest and to replenish cryogenic propellant stocks.”

Orion is scheduled to make two flybys of the moon 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the lunar surface, passing up to 40,000 miles (64,000 km) beyond the moon before returning to Earth 38 days after launch.

NASA has stowed three mannequins aboard the capsule which will be used to test radiation and heat levels during the flight. A Snoopy plush is also present, floating inside the capsule as an indicator of weightlessness.

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When Orion returns, it’s set to return hotter and faster than any space vehicle, heating up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at 32 times the speed sound. This will test the capsule’s ablative heat shield, which alongside the craft’s parachute will use air friction to slow Orion to just 20 mph (32.2 km/h), after which it should fall safely into the Pacific Ocean. the coast of Baja California, Mexico, ready for recovery.

The flight will be followed by Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 in 2024 and 2025/2026 respectively. Artemis 2 will make the same trip as Artemis 1, but with a human crew of four, and Artemis 3 will send the first woman and first person of color to land on the moon’s south pole.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 ahead of the second launch attempt, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the test mission will be a spur for technological innovation and a crucial next step in exploring the cosmos. by humanity.

“This time we’re not just going to land [on the Moon] and leave again after a few hours or a few days — we leave to learn, to live, to work, to explore, to determine if there is water; so on the [moon’s] south pole, that would mean we have rocket fuel, we have a gas station up there,” Nelson said. “This time, we’re going to learn how to live in this harsh environment for long periods of time, all with the goal that we’re going to Mars.”

Originally posted on Live Science.

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