NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket passed a critical refueling test on Wednesday (September 21), potentially keeping it on track for an expected September. 27 take off.
Artemis 1 will send an unmanned Orion capsule into lunar orbit using a giant Space launch system (SLS) rocket. NASA tried to launch the mission on September 2. 3 but was opposed by a loss of liquid hydrogen propeller in a “quick disconnect” on the SLS center stage, an interface that connects the rocket with a fuel line from its mobile launch tower.
Artemis team 1 replaced two seals around the quick disconnect in September. 9, so he scheduled a refuel test to see if the fix worked. That test took place Wednesday on Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida and brought good news for the mission.
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“All the goals we set ourselves to achieve we were able to achieve today,” said Artemis Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, with the Exploration Ground Systems Program at KSC, in brief comments after Wednesday’s test. , which took up most of the day.
This is not to say that everything went perfectly. For example, the leak on quick disconnect reoccurred when loading liquid hydrogen. But the team managed to solve it; they heated the quick disconnect, allowing it to “reposition itself,” which reduced the rate of loss to acceptable levels.
Artemis 1 personnel also noticed a different leak of hydrogen during a “pre-pressurization test”, also part of Wednesday’s activities. This test “allowed the engineers to calibrate the settings used for the engine conditioning during the terminal count and to validate the timings before the launch day to reduce the planning risk during the launch day countdown,” i NASA officials explained in a blog post (opens in a new tab) after the test has finished.
This second leak was smaller than the other, and the Artemis 1 team was able to keep it in check, agency officials said.
NASA is currently watching September. 27 as the launch target for Artemis 1, with a possible backup date of October. 2. It’s too early to make a formal commitment to any of these dates despite Wednesday’s success, Blackwell-Thompson said.
“I think we’re going to take the data and see what they tell us,” he said. But, she added, “I am extremely encouraged by today’s test and achieving all of our goals.”
Some other things need to follow Artemis 1’s path for the mission to launch in the next two weeks. Time has to work together, for example, and is never a certainty on Florida’s Space Coast. The mission must also obtain an exemption from the certification of its Flight Termination System (FTS), which is designed to destroy the SLS should it deviate from course during launch.
the American space force, which oversees the eastern range for rocket launches, certified Artemis 1’s FTS for 25 days and that time is up. The mission asked for a derogation; if not granted, the huge rocket will have to be rolled from Pad 39B to the KSC Vehicle Assembly Building, the only place where recertification can take place.
“Right now, we’re still in the process of technical discussions with the range,” said Tom Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for the development of common exploration systems, during a press conference on Monday (Sept. 19), referring to the waiver situation. . “It was very productive and collaborative.”
Artemis 1 has already received one of these FTS exemptions, which extended the certification from 20 days to 25.
If all goes well with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts around the moon in 2024 and Artemis 3 will put down his boots near the lunar south pole a year or two later. the Artemis the program ultimately aims to establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon and to use the skills and knowledge gained thereby to bring astronauts to Mars in the late 1930s or early 1940s .
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) or turned on Facebook (opens in a new tab).