NASA will make a second try to launch the company’s large House Launch System rocket on Saturday on a take a look at flight to ship an unmanned Orion crew capsule across the moon and again, a serious milestone for the company..
As a consequence of an issue with cooling one of many rocket’s 4 shuttle-squeezing engines to the required temperature earlier than commissioning, managers mentioned Tuesday that engineers have provide you with a workaround. Assuming closing permission holds, the launch group will start a brand new countdown at 4:07pm EST on Thursday.
This may pave the way in which foron the Artemis 1 mission at 2:17 p.m. Saturday, in the future after NASA’s authentic backup launch date. As all the time, the group must work across the climate, with forecasters predicting a 60% likelihood of stormy situations through the rocket’s two-hour launch window.
Mike Sarafin, NASA mission administration group chief, mentioned primary-stage refueling procedures will likely be modified in an effort to enhance cooling for all 4 RS-25 engines. As well as, fittings will likely be tightened across the navel of the gasoline line on the base of the missile to enhance sealing and forestall leaks just like the one which occurred briefly on Monday.
“We agreed on the so-called first option, which is to change the (fuel) loading procedures operationally and start the engine cooling earlier,” Sarafin mentioned. “We also agreed to do some work in the pad to address the leak we saw in the secret hydrogen tail service shaft.
“We also agreed to move the launch date to Saturday. We will invite the mission management team again on Thursday to review the reasons for our flight and our general preparation.”
The 322-foot-long, 5.75-million-pound SLS isBuilt by NASA, it generates 8.8 million pounds of thrust on takeoff using four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines remaining from the Shuttle program and two Northrop Grumman solid rocket boosters attached to a base stage from Boeing.
Accelerating to 70 mph – straight up – in just seven seconds, solid rocket boosters and a core stage will boost the Orion capsule, which carries equipped test dummies and an array of sensors and experiments, into an elliptical orbit. The rocket’s upper stage, provided by the United Launch Alliance, will push the capsule away from Earth’s gravity and toward the moon’s path.
After a close flyby, the capsule will orbit the moon and eject into a distant orbit that will carry it farther from Earth than any human-class spacecraft. Then, after another lunar flyby, the ship will return to Earth to splash into the Pacific Ocean west of San Diego on October 11.
The goal of the Artemis 1 mission is to put the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft through their paces, including a high-speed, high-temperature reentry, before launching four astronauts around the Moon in late 2024.The time frame is planned 2025-26.
Given the ever-changing positions of the Earth and Moon, along with the rocket’s ability to hit the right trajectory, NASA should launch the Artemis 1 mission within specific “windows.”
Compounding the picture, the battery used in the upper stage self-destruct system must be serviced after 25 days, and this can only be done at NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
That means the Artemis 1 mission must lift off from Earth by Monday or the rocket will be returned to VAB, delaying another launch attempt until late September at the earliest or, more likely, to October.
The SLS rocket is key to the Artemis program, and NASA managers and engineers want to make sure it works as planned before launching astronauts to the moon.
An eight-minute primary stage engine test launch was conducted at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on March 18, 2021. The rocket was then shipped to the Kennedy Space Center for launch processing.
NASA conducted a training countdown test and refueling test on April 3, a key milestone necessary to make sure the rocket, launch pad, and Earth systems work together as planned. But engineers faced a series of mostly ground system problems that prevented them from loading fuel,
Two more refueling attempts on 4 and 14 April failed due to a variety of unrelated problems. Engineers were finally able to fully load the primary stage on June 20, but only after isolating one of the rapidly detaching fixtures that prevented hydrogen coolant from flowing into the primary stage engines—a requirement for the actual launch.
Quick separation was repaired again in the Vehicle Assembly Building and the SLS missile was returned to Platform 39B on August 16 to prepare the vehicle for launch.
While trying to launch on Monday, the repaired quick disconnect seemed to work normally. With the primary stage tanks filled and capped, liquid oxygen and hydrogen began to circulate through the engine tubes to condition them to the extremely low temperatures of the propellant—minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit for hydrogen and 297 degrees for oxygen.
But none of the engines reached the target temperature. Engines 1, 2, and 4 reached around -410 degrees while engine No. 3 only reached about -380 degrees. During troubleshooting, engineers switched all hydrogen coolant to Engine 3 and it had not yet reached its planned operating temperature.
John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at Marshall Spaceflight Center, said engineers suspect a faulty sensor may be responsible for the readings from the engine 3. Pressure measurements and other data indicate good cooling.
“The way the sensor behaves, it doesn’t match the physics of the situation,” he said. “And so we’ll look at all the other data we have to use to make an informed decision whether or not we have coolant for all engines.”
By starting the cooling procedure about 45 minutes early when the engines are close to ambient temperatures, the engineers believe they are able to cool all four engines as needed.
A similar procedure was used during last year’s test launch of the rocket at the Stennis Space Center. In this case, the engines have cooled properly and run normally for a full “green run”.
“As of today, based on the data we have, we think we can do something like what we did at Stennis Space Center to put ourselves in a better position to launch,” Honeycutt said.
As Exchangers said, the team will review all data on Thursday before giving final approval to go ahead with the launch attempt.
“The team is in the middle of looking at the data and building the rationale for the trip,” Honeycutt mentioned. “I don’t have that yet, but I expect we can get there.”
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