NASA says the SLS is “okay” after a failed rehearsal launch

NASA SLS rocket at launch site 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA SLS rocket at launch site 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Photo: NASA / Ben Smegelski

A critical multi-day test of NASA’s space launch system was canceled Monday due to a problem with the cryogenic fuel pressure relief valve. The space agency is seeking to resume a wet dress rehearsal in the near future, saying there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the giant rocket.

Space is said to be difficult, and this is certainly true when it comes to preparing a never-flying rocket for a mission to the moon and back. NASA is currently preparing its long-awaited SLS rocket for launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but a wet dress rehearsal failed to reach the finish line. The rocket had to be fully prepared – including tanks refueled with ultra-cold fuel, and the countdown began – but not launched.

“The mega-rocket moon is fine. We are working to bring it to the starting position, ”Tom Whitmeier, NASA’s deputy deputy administrator for common research systems, told reporters yesterday in a news conference. “We just have to go through it,” he said, adding that ground teams “are doing a really good job.”

This work is being carried out in preparation for the Artemis 1 unmanned mission, the inaugural SLS flight. The next-generation rocket is a critical component of the Artemis program, which seeks to land a man and a woman on the moon at the end of this decade. NASA is currently targeting a launch in June, but that will depend on the results of a wet dress rehearsal that is yet to be completed.

The space agency stopped testing on Monday after ground crews failed to begin loading cryogenic liquid hydrogen fuel. The problem was ultimately due to a manual vent valve that was left in the closed position, a failed configuration that could not be fixed remotely. У statement, NASA said “valve positioning has been corrected.” The team did manage to load about 50% of the required cryogenic liquid oxygen fuel into the main stage, which was subsequently drained.

The improper vent valve, located at level 160 of the mobile launcher, was hardly the only problem faced by ground crews during a rehearsal that began on Friday, April 1st. On Saturday, four lightning bolts hit the launch pad, causing a slight delay, but the test came to its senses point on Sunday, when two fans designed to ventilate a 370-foot (113-meter) mobile rocket launcher failed.

Despite this and other problems with a third-party nitrogen gas supplier, NASA restored the wet dress on Monday. But new challenges re-emerged, including the problem of temperature limitation for cryogenic liquid oxygen, which led to a delay of several hours. The rehearsal was resolved, the rehearsal continued, but a problem with the vent valve forced the launch director to call him Monday at 5pm EDT.

NASA is now preparing for the next attempt to get dressed in wet clothes, but it is stepping aside to allow the launch of the Axiom Space Ax-1 mission, which is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday morning. A rehearsal date for the launch has not been announced, but NASA officials said it would happen soon. A fully integrated rocket with an Orion capsule at the top continues to stand on launch pad 39B.

Whitmeyer brushed aside the less than perfect rehearsal of the run, saying ground crews learned “a few things” from this “highly choreographed dance” that just need to be cleaned up. “Sometimes you come across something you didn’t expect,” he told reporters, comparing it to pieces of the puzzle that didn’t quite fit. “The spacecraft is working pretty well,” Whitmeyer said, adding that similar problems were encountered during the SLS Green Run test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center and during the development of the space shuttle.

At a news conference, Mike Sarafin, head of the Artemis mission, said the teams had found “no fundamental design flaws or problems” with the missile, and that the problems were best described as “troubles” or “technical problems” that could not be detected. . during pre-testing.

“To put it all together, you’ll find out where the uncertainties are, and we’re working on that,” Sarafin said. “Sometimes you learn that a complete system is a little different from a subscale, but there are no serious issues that need to be overcome.” Most of the problems are small or procedural, he said, such as small adjustments to time or limitations, but “as far as rockets, hardware are in order, spacecraft are in order – we just need to pass tests and test tasks,” he said.

“It was a significant day for us. Our team has achieved quite a lot, ”Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, director of the Artemis launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, told reporters. Indeed, while tempting to focus on the downsides, the team has managed to delete many items from its essential checklist. These included setting up the Launch Pad 39B and mobile launcher, including Orion and Rocket in the launch configuration, checking the guidance, navigation and control system, and draining the fuel after testing, among others.

The date of Artemis 1 or the restoration of the wet dress is not scheduled, but the good news is that the rehearsal won’t have to start from scratch. The watch is currently in standby mode, and the launch system remains in perfect configuration, NASA officials said. The main priority in the future will be the final filling of the core and the second stage with cryogenic fuel and the cessation of the countdown to T-10 seconds. Asked whether the SLS would continue to launch in June, Sarafin replied: “We are not giving up on that yet.”

Is there any advice or comment for me about the space flight industry? Contact me at george.dvorsky@gizmodo.com.

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