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  04 Sep 2022, 08:09
Update : 04 Sep 2022, 17:13

NASA will not try new Moon rocket launch attempt in coming days

NASA unsure next Moon rocket launch attempt possible this month

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, United States, Sept 4, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - After scrapping 
a second attempt to get its new 30-story lunar rocket off the ground due to a 
fuel leak, NASA officials said Saturday it may not be possible to try again 
this month.

The current launch window for NASA's Artemis 1 mission to the Moon ends 
Tuesday and is "definitely off the table," said Jim Free, associate 
administrator for Exploration Systems Development, at a press conference 
Saturday.

The next possible launch window is September 19 to October 4, and failing 
that, October 17 to 31, NASA said.

The ability to take off during those windows "will really depend on the 
options that the team comes back with likely on Monday or early Tuesday 
morning," said Free.

Millions around the globe tuned in to live coverage and crowds gathered on 
beaches in Florida on Saturday hoping to witness the historic blastoff of the 
Space Launch System (SLS).

But a leak near the base of the rocket was found as ultra-cold liquid 
hydrogen was being pumped in, forcing a halt.

The Artemis 1 space mission hopes to test the SLS as well as the unmanned 
Orion capsule that sits atop, in preparation for future Moon-bound journeys 
with humans aboard.

The first launch attempt on Monday had also been halted after engineers 
detected a fuel leak and a sensor showed that one of the rocket's four main 
engines was too hot.

"This is a whole new vehicle, a whole new technology, a whole new purpose of 
going back to the moon and preparation to go to Mars," said NASA 
administrator Bill Nelson. "Yes, it's hard."

Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin described the hydrogen leak as "large," 
and said one of their "leading suspects" was a seal on a fueling tube.

Engineering teams believe they will have to replace the seal, either directly 
on the launch pad or after taking the rocket back to its assembly building a 
few miles away.

It was "too early" to entirely rule out a launch before the end of September, 
said Sarafin, who promised a status update next week.

NASA has previously said that the early October period would be complicated 
to coordinate because a crew of astronauts will be using the Kennedy Space 
Center for a rocket launch to the International Space Station.

In addition to the leak, another problem facing the SLS is its emergency 
self-destruct system.

Designed to explode in case the rocket deviates off course, the system will 
likely need to be reexamined before the next launch, which can only be done 
in the assembly building. 

Bringing the rocket in and out of the building will take "several weeks," 
Sarafin said.

- Apollo's twin sister -

Once launched by SLS, the Orion capsule will take several days to reach the 
Moon, flying around 60 miles (100 kilometers) at its closest approach.

The capsule will fire its engines to get to a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) 
of 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, a record for a spacecraft rated to carry 
humans.

Mannequins equipped with sensors are standing in for astronauts on the 
Artemis 1 mission and will record acceleration, vibration and radiation 
levels.

The trip is expected to last around six weeks and one of its main objectives 
is to test the capsule's heat shield, which at 16 feet in diameter is the 
largest ever built.

On its return to Earth's atmosphere, the heat shield will have to withstand 
speeds of 25,000 miles per hour and a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit 
(2,760 degrees Celsius) -- roughly half as hot as the Sun.

Artemis is named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, after whom 
the first Moon missions were named.

Unlike the Apollo missions, which sent only white men to the Moon between 
1969 and 1972, Artemis missions will see the first person of color and the 
first woman step foot on the lunar surface.

A successful Artemis 1 mission would come as a huge relief to the US space 
agency, after years of delays and cost overruns.

The cost of the Artemis program is estimated to reach $93 billion by 2025, 
with each of its first four missions clocking in at a whopping $4.1 billion 
per launch, according to a government audit.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts to the Moon without landing 
on its surface.

The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest, with 
later missions envisaging a lunar space station and a sustainable presence on 
the lunar surface.

A crewed trip to the red planet aboard Orion, which would last several years, 
could be attempted by the end of the 2030s.
 

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