SPACE – It won’t be for this Monday. The launch of the mission artemis was canceled on August 29 due to a technical problem with one of the main engines of the machine, NASA announced. From Cape Canaveral in Florida, the new SLS rocket (Space Launch System) was to set off from 2:33 p.m. (French time) towards the Moon. This is the first step in a very long NASA mission that aims to return humans to the Moon by 2025 or 2026.
A few minutes after the scheduled launch time, and after initially announcing a delay, NASA finally announced that the takeoff was canceled. Technical and weather-related problems were indeed encountered during the complex preparations for the rocket, the most powerful in the world.
The next possible take-off date is Friday, September 2, then September 5. But the problem will first have to be assessed by NASA teams before determining a new date.
Risk of lightning, leakage and faulty motor
The tanks of the mega-rocket have been filled with more than three million liters of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. But the filling had started about an hour late because of too high a risk of lightning in the middle of the night.
Around 8 a.m. this morning (French time), the technical teams began to fill the fuel tanks on the launch pad of the Artemis rocket. But “a spike in the amount of hydrogen allowed to escape into the purge canister was found. The problem occurred during the transition from slow filling of liquid hydrogen in the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket to fast filling operations “says NASA in a post on his blog.
An hour after this incident, NASA warned that ” the teams continued to troubleshoot a liquid hydrogen leak at the coupling interface with the central stage. After manually cooling the liquid hydrogen as part of troubleshooting efforts, they perform quick fill operations.”
Then, around 1 p.m. (French time), a new, decisive problem appeared: one of the four RS-25 engines, under the main stage of the rocket, could not reach the desired temperature – a necessary condition to be able to turn it on.
The countdown was then stopped, and after more than an hour and a half of waiting and trying to fix the problem, NASA launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson made the final decision to cancel. .
He was however “widely anticipated” that this schedule is not respected, said the commentator of the NASA live video.
A trip of 39 to 42 days
Thousands of people had made the trip to watch the show, including the Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris.
the launch is adjusted to the millimeter. Two minutes after takeoff, the boosters will fall back into the Atlantic. Then after eight minutes, the main stage will detach and it is after approximately 1h30 that the Orion capsule will be on its way to the Moon, which it will take several days to reach.
The Orion capsule will be installed at the top of the rocket, here without a crew, in order to test the reliability of the machines, and to allow men to be sent in complete safety during the next stage. Orion will orbit the Moon without landing before returning to Earth.
In total, the trip should last between 39 and 42 days. The Artemis 1 mission is part of a return to the moon for NASA which plans to send men around the Moon in 2024 and set foot on the satellite again by 2025. The goal is to be able to go to Mars by the 2030s at the earliest.
A complete failure of the mission would be devastating for a rocket with a huge budget (4.1 billion per launch, according to a public audit) and several years late (ordered in 2010 by the American Congress for an initial date of takeoff in 2017) .
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