As NASA prepares to resume a critical test in preparation for Artemis I, the first launch of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, the head of the Artemis launch today admitted that the launch is unlikely before the end of August or the earliest September. A variety of factors limit the launch to a period of about two weeks each month and the July-early August window is slipping away. At the same time, the heads of NASA and ESA spoke today in the Netherlands about the prospects for European astronauts to land on the moon.
NASA will try to complete the wet suit test of the SLS / Orion “stack” again from Saturday. The three-day test culminates on Monday as they charge the nuclear stage and the upper stage with fuel – liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen – and practice countdown as close as 9.3 seconds before launch.
Three attempts in April ended up in scrubs for unrelated reasons and NASA decided to roll back the bar to the vehicle assembly building for repairs while a contractor, Air Liquide, upgraded its system to provide gaseous nitrogen (GN2) needed to clean fuel lines.
Last week was the stack rolled back to start Complex 39-B to resume the test.
The problem that disrupted the third WDR attempt was a hydrogen leak between the rocket and the Mobile Launcher. NASA’s Deputy Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Jim Free, who is monitoring the Artemis effort, told reporters today that they believe they have fixed it, but will not know until they start refueling the rocket on Monday.
“We fixed some things we saw around the area where we saw the leak, including going back to some of the procedures we used and the knowledge from the shuttle days, which we really benefited from. Obviously, we will not know the outcome of it until we actually flow. liquid hydrogen. ” – Jim Free
The SLS core stage comes from the space shuttle’s external tank and the SLS uses the same Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines used on the shuttle. They were designed to be reused up to 20 times and the remaining 16 will be used for SLS. All four on this rocket were already flying in space. NASA has decided not to reuse them anymore so this flight will be their last.
SLS / Orion’s first flight has been delayed time and time again. 2014, NASA engaged to the first launch in November 2018. It slipped December 2019 – June 2020then to mid to late 2021 and then until 2022.
The date has fallen month by month this year. Free confirmed today that it will not happen during the period July 26-August 10. The other launch windows this year are:
- August 23 – September 6, but not 30, 31 or 1 September
- September 20 – October 4but not September 29
- October 17-31but not October 24, 25, 26 or 28
- November 12-27but not November 20, 21 or 26
- December 9-23but not December 10, 14, 18 or 23
On the question of whether NASA can decide to continue with the launch even if all the WDR goals are not met, Free probably does not believe.
“This is the first time we are flying this vehicle and I think we need to understand everything we can before we commit to launch. I think we need to look at the issue and say, hey, is that something that is understandable, but my The first warning is to say that we will understand what each situation is and drive it to the ground before we press on to undertake a launch. ” – Jim Free
Unlike the tests in April, NASA will provide live commentary on Monday on refueling and counting down exercises. The Agency insists that export control considerations prevent it from sharing details of the timeline and actions, but it tries to be more transparent.
Refueling is scheduled to begin at 07.00 ET on Monday with “T-0” at. 14.40 ET – the opening of a two-hour test window.
Artemis I is an unmanned test flight around the moon. A test launch with a crew, Artemis II, around the moon is expected in 2024, with the first return of astronauts to the lunar surface currently planned for 2025 on Artemis III.
However, during a press conference in the Netherlands with the leaders of the European Space Agency today, NASA administrator Bill Nelson warned that the 2025 date could also slip.
“I can tell you that the first landing we are currently aiming for is for 2025, but as you know the space is complicated and there could be slips. But we aim for 2025 to have the first woman and the next man to land on the moon.” – Bill Nelson
Asked when a European could land on the moon, Nelson stressed that the Artemis program is international and “we look forward to having an ESA astronaut with us on the moon”, but details of the crew’s composition for flights beyond Artemis III still remain to negotiate. ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher added that it is his “wish” and “hope” that it will be “before the end of this decade.”
ESA, Canada and Japan are partners in the Artemis program as well as in the International Space Station. ESA already provides the service module for the Orion crew’s spacecraft. All three participate in the Gateway space station, which will be placed in the lunar orbit. A Canadian astronaut will fly on Artemis II. President Biden signed an agreement with Japan last month to send a Japanese astronaut to the Gateway and note a “share ambition” to land a Japanese astronaut on the surface. ESA and NASA agreed In 2020, three European astronauts will visit the Gateway.
Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy were in the Netherlands to attend an ESA Council meeting to advocate for more NASA-ESA cooperation on earth sciences and Artemis. Nelson and Aschbacher signed one agreement to ensure the continuity of geoscientific observations and share data to tackle climate change, and another for NASA to host the launch of ESA’s Lunar Pathfinder, a small communications satellite to support lunar surface operations, on one of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) assignments.
Last updated: June 15, 2022 11:40 PM ET
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