Engineers discovered a fuel leak on Saturday, forcing NASA to abandon a second attempt to launch its brand-new 30-story rocket and send its unmanned test capsule toward the Moon.
As ultra-cold liquid hydrogen was being injected into the enormous Space Launch System (SLS), a leak at the rocket’s base was discovered as millions throughout the world and hundreds of thousands on surrounding beaches awaited the historic launch.
“The launch director waived off today’s Artemis I launch,” NASA said in a statement. “Multiple troubleshooting efforts to address the area of the leak… did not fix the issue.”
Despite the launch site’s surrounding region being off-limits to the general public, an estimated 400,000 people had congregated there to witness and hear the most potent rocket that NASA has ever launched make its ascent into space.
Engineers discovered a fuel leak and a sensor indicated that one of the rocket’s four main engines was running too hot, which forced them to abort Monday’s original launch attempt as well.
Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson gave the go-ahead to begin putting cryogenic fuel in the rocket’s tanks early on Saturday.
The spaceship was supposed to receive about three million liters of the extremely cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen, but the process quickly ran into difficulties.
No new time for a second attempt was right away announced.
There are backup opportunities on Monday or Tuesday following the most recent postponement. The Moon’s position will prevent the following launch window from opening until September 19 after that.
The Orion capsule, which is attached to the SLS rocket, will be tested during the Artemis 1 mission to ensure that it can safely transport astronauts in the future.
In place of the astronauts on the mission, mannequins with sensors will measure radiation, vibration, and acceleration.
Apollo’s twin sister
The spacecraft will travel around 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Earth to the Moon at its closest approach, taking many days to complete. The spaceship will start its engines in order to reach a record-breaking deep retrograde orbit (DRO) of 40,000 miles beyond the Moon for a spacecraft designed to carry people.
One of the main goals of the journey, which is anticipated to last about six weeks, is to test the heat shield of the capsule, the largest one ever built at 16 feet in diameter.
The heat shield will have to endure speeds of 25,000 miles per hour and temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) on its return to Earth’s atmosphere, which is nearly half as hot as the Sun.
The first Moon expeditions were given the name Apollo in honor of the Greek god Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis.
The Artemis missions will see the first person of color and the first woman set foot on the lunar surface, in contrast to the Apollo missions, which between 1969 and 1972 only sent white men to the Moon.
According to a government analysis, the Artemis program will cost $93 billion by 2025, with each of its first four launches costing a staggering $4.1 billion.
With the Artemis 2 mission, astronauts will visit the Moon without touching down.
At the earliest, the crew of Artemis 3 will touch down on the Moon in 2025, with subsequent missions planning a lunar space station and a permanent presence there.