NASA is working to get its next-generation rocket into orbit to finally launch the ambitious Artemis space exploration program.
Following failed attempts to blast the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket skyward on August 29 and September 3, NASA engineers at the Kennedy Space Center launch site in Florida have been working tirelessly to fix the issues that caused those countdowns to halt.
With the rocket still on the launchpad, the to-do list has included replacing the seals at the center of the hydrogen leak that occurred during fueling operations for the rocket’s second launch attempt.
“Engineers have replaced the seals associated with the hydrogen leak detected during the #Artemis I launch attempt on Sept. 3,” NASA confirmed on Saturday. “The teams will inspect the new seals over the weekend and assess opportunities to launch.”
Engineers have replaced the seals associated with the hydrogen leak detected during the #Artemis I launch attempt on Sept. 3. The teams will inspect the new seals over the weekend and assess opportunities to launch: https://t.co/dT8A4UEkvd pic.twitter.com/xXzwbYOxMp
— NASA Artemis (@NASAArtemis) September 9, 2022
The launch team is now aiming to conduct a tanking demonstration as soon as September 17, a procedure designed to check the new seals under super-cold conditions that replicate the conditions on launch day.
The tanking demonstration will involve loading liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the SLS rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage and getting to a stable replenish state for both propellants, NASA said.
Engineers will also conduct several other tests to validate the ground and flight hardware and software systems’ ability to perform the necessary functions required to thermally condition the engines for flight.
Once all of these preparations have been successfully carried out, the team will assess the data and make a final decision on whether to go for launch before the end of this month.
The upcoming Artemis I missions is one of the most highly anticipated NASA events in years as it will usher in a new era of space exploration that will soon involve astronaut missions to the moon and even Mars.
When the uncrewed Artemis I launch takes place hopefully in the coming weeks, the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built will propel the new Orion spacecraft toward the moon, where it’ll perform a fly-by before returning to Earth about six weeks later.
A successful mission will pave the way for Artemis II that will see the Orion take the same route though this time with a crew on board.
Artemis III, which could take place as early as 2025, will endeavor to put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in what will also be the first astronaut landing since the final Apollo mission in 1972.
But that’s just the start, as NASA wants to build a moon base for long-duration astronaut missions, and also send the first crew to Mars in a historic voyage that could take place in the late 2030s. But before that can happen, there is still much work to be done.