Hydrogen leak forces NASA to scrub Artemis 1 launch again
For the second time in a week, NASA has scrubbed the Artemis 1 launch. It was a stubborn hydrogen fuel leak that turned villain on September 3. Engineers repeatedly tried to get the leak under control, but it was not to be. The attempt was finally called off at 8:47 pm IST (11:17 am EDT). The next attempt is likely to be in October.
Why does this story matter?
- NASA's Artemis 1 mission is the precursor to the agency's aim to get human beings back on the moon. The much-anticipated test flight hasn't been that fortunate in its attempts to leave Earth though.
- Considering what's at stake, NASA will not take any chances until it is certain that everything is perfect.
- Sooner than later, we'll see Artemis 1 back at Launch Pad 39B.
The leak was first detected 7 hours before liftoff
The Artemis 1's second launch attempt was aborted due to a liquid hydrogen leak detected in the cavity between the ground and flight side plates of the quick disconnect. The leak was detected while loading super cold liquid hydrogen into the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket's core stage. The incident occurred around seven hours before the lift-off.
NASA's engineers tried to troubleshoot the leak 3 times
When the fuel leak was detected for the first time, NASA engineers tried to warm the tank connector and chill it with cold fuel to reseat the quick disconnect and seal it. The second time, they used helium to put pressure on the ground transfer line to reseat the seal. Lastly, they tried the warm-chill method once more. Despite all this, the leak reoccurred.
What's next for Artemis 1?
NASA has decided to forego further launch attempts in September. The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will be rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to reset the system's batteries. In the meanwhile, teams will decide whether to fix the leak at the Launch Pad 39B under cryogenic conditions or inside the VAB.
When will the next launch attempt take place?
NASA will most likely try to launch the Artemis 1 for the third time in October. According to the mission's launch availability calendar, there are available launch windows in early October and mid-October. Considering that NASA plans to launch four astronauts to the ISS in early October, the mid-October window seems more plausible. We can expect the third launch attempt between October 17-31.
Launch holdbacks are part of the space business: NASA administrator
Despite the failed second attempt, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was positive about the mission's future. "We will go when it's ready. We don't go until then, and especially now on a test flight," he said after the scrub. "This is part of the space business... We have to be ready for the scrubs," he added.