NASA’s fourth attempt to complete a critical test of a Moon rocket has achieved about 90% of its goal, but there’s still no official date for the giant’s maiden flight, officials say. know on Tuesday.
Called the “wet skirt maneuver” because it involves loading a liquid propellant, here’s the last item that needs to pass the checklist ahead of the Artemis-1 mission scheduled for this summer: a rudderless lunar flight that will eventually be followed by the Moon shoe on a ground ship, possibly no earlier than 2026.
Teams at the Kennedy Space Center began their latest attempt to complete the assignment on Saturday.
Their goal was to load the rocket’s tank with propellant, conduct a launch countdown and simulate contingency scenarios, and then drain the tank.
Three previous tenders, which began in March, had failed and failed to fuel the rocket with hundreds of thousands of gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
On Monday, the engineers finally succeeded in filling the tanks. But they also ran into a new hydrogen leak problem that they couldn’t solve.
“I would say we’re in the 90th percentile for the overall position we need,” Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters Tuesday.
He added that NASA is still deciding whether it needs another maneuver or can proceed with a direct launch. The agency previously said there could be an August window for Artemis-1.
NASA officials have repeatedly emphasized that delays associated with testing new systems are common in the Apollo and Space Shuttle eras, and that issues affecting SLS are not a major concern. .
With the Orion crew capsule fixed to the top, Block 1 of the Space Launch System (SLS) is 322 feet (98 meters) tall – taller than the Statue of Liberty, but slightly smaller than a Saturn rocket The 363-foot V powered the Apollo mission to the Moon.
It will generate a maximum thrust of 8.8 million pounds (39.1 Meganewtons), 15% more than the Saturn V, which means it is expected to be the most powerful rocket in the world by the time it starts operating. motion.
Artemis-1 is expected to cruise around the far side of the Moon this summer in a test flight.
Artemis-2 will be the first crewed test flight, orbiting the Moon but not landing, while Artemis-3 will see the first woman and person of color touch down on the Moon’s south pole. .
NASA wants to build a permanent presence on the Moon and use it as a proof-of-concept for the technologies needed for a Mars mission, sometime in the 2030s.