NASA cancels Artemis lunar rocket launch for second time in 5 days

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CAPE CANAVERAL — For the second time in five days, NASA on Saturday paused an ongoing countdown and postponed a planned attempt to launch the first test flight of its giant next-generation rocket, the first mission of the lune-à-Mars agency Artemis program.

The latest attempt to launch the 32-story Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion capsule has been scrubbed after repeated attempts by technicians to fix a leak of supercooled liquid hydrogen propellant pumped into the rocket’s fuel tanks. the middle floor of the vehicle. .

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In addition to struggling to fix the leak itself, the difficulty caused mission managers to fall behind in the countdown, leaving too little time to complete pre-launch preparations before liftoff.

Pre-flight operations were officially canceled for the day by Artemis I Launch Director Charlie Blackwell Thompson, approximately three hours before the targeted two-hour launch window opened at 2:17 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. 17 GMT).

There was no immediate word on a time frame to try again to launch the mission, dubbed Artemis I. But NASA could schedule another attempt for Monday or Tuesday.

“Engineers continue to collect additional data,” NASA said in a statement announcing the scrub.

A first test launch on Monday was foiled by 11-hour technical issues that surfaced during the countdown, including a leaky fuel line, a faulty temperature sensor and cracks in the foam insulation. NASA officials said these issues have already been resolved to their satisfaction.

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Launch-day delays and technical issues are not uncommon for new rockets such as NASA’s Space Launch System, a complex rocket with a set of pre-launch procedures that have yet to be fully tested. and repeated by engineers without a hitch.

The SLS-Orion’s maiden voyage would kick off NASA’s Mars Artemis lunar program, the successor to the Apollo lunar missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

The trip is meant to put the 5.75 million pound vehicle through its paces in a rigorous demonstration flight, pushing its design limits, before NASA deems it reliable enough to carry astronauts on a subsequent flight scheduled for 2024.

Billed as the most powerful and complex rocket in the world, the SLS represents the largest new vertical launch system the US space agency has built since the Saturn V rocket piloted during Apollo, which was born out of the US space race -Cold War Soviet. time.

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If the first two Artemis missions are successful, NASA aims to land astronauts on the Moon, including the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface, as soon as 2025. Many experts, however, believe that this deadline may pass. a few years.

The last humans to walk on the moon were the two-man Apollo 17 descent team in 1972, following in the footsteps of 10 other astronauts on five previous missions beginning with Apollo 11 in 1969.

The Artemis program aims to eventually establish a long-term lunar base as a stepping stone to even more ambitious astronaut journeys to Mars, a goal that NASA officials say will likely take until at least the end of the years. 2030.

The program was named after the goddess who was the twin sister of Apollo in ancient Greek mythology.

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SLS has been in development for over a decade, with years of delays and cost overruns. But the Artemis program has also generated tens of thousands of jobs and billions of trade dollars under major contractors Boeing Co for SLS and Lockheed Martin Corp for Orion.

Although no humans are on board, Orion will carry a simulated crew of three – one male and two female mannequins – equipped with sensors to measure radiation levels and other stresses that real astronauts would experience.

The spacecraft is also expected to release a payload of 10 miniaturized science satellites, called CubeSats, including one designed to map the abundance of ice deposits on the moon’s south pole.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Cape Canaveral, Florida and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Frances Kerry and Chizu Nomiyama)



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