Saturday, September 23, 2023

NASA has a new launch date for its Artemis I mega rocket

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NASA Launches Artemis I On Moon Orbit Mission
NASA’s Artemis I rocket | Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images

NASA’s Artemis I rocket is now departs on September 27, with a “potential” backup date slated for October 2 if things don’t go as planned. The agency originally considered retrying the launch as early as the 23rd, but decided on a later date after “careful consideration of multiple logistical topics.”

The Artemis I mission will use NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket to catapult an unmanned Orion capsule around the moon as part of the agency’s goal to return humans to the lunar surface by 2025. While NASA’s first launch attempt was aborted due to an engine problem, the second attempt on Sept. 3 ended prematurely after the Artemis I team discovered a hydrogen leak that engineers were unable to fix.

To make sure everything goes smoothly this time, NASA is making some preparations. The Artemis I team has already finished work on the hydrogen leak, replacing the seals around the “quick disconnect” system that helps route the icy liquid hydrogen fuel into the rocket. Engineers have scheduled a test for Sept. 21 to see if the shortcut will hold up under the cryogenic conditions required to launch.

It’s also questionable whether NASA will have to test the batteries in the rocket’s flight termination system, which the Space Force can use to destroy the rocket if something catastrophically wrong during its flight. To test the system, NASA would have to roll the SLS back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, a four-mile journey that takes hours. It is ultimately up to the Space Force to decide whether NASA can proceed without testing. NASA has already received an extension to extend the rocket’s certification from 20 to 25 days, but Space Force has yet to decide whether the agency will receive another certification.

“NASA continues to respect the Eastern Range process for reviewing the agency’s request for an extension of the current flight termination system testing requirement and will provide additional information and data as needed,” NASA wrote in the post. “At the same time, the agency continues to prepare for the cryogenic demonstration test and possible launch options, should the request be approved.”

If everything works out, NASA will attempt to launch the rocket on Sept. 27 with a 70-minute launch window at 11:37 a.m. ET. The launch date is sandwiched between two other major space events, with NASA set to crash a spacecraft onto an asteroid on Sept. 26 as part of its Double Asteroid Redirect (DART) mission, and NASA and SpaceX crews to the International Space Station on October 3.

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