NASA’s Artemis 1 Moon Rocket Troubled With Technical Issues Ahead of Launch

by Lauren Boisvert

NASA‘s Artemis 1 rocket is scheduled to launch today, September 3, no earlier than 2:17 pm ET. This depends on the promise of good weather and barring any serious issues, of course. Previously, the launch was scrubbed on August 29 due to an engine cooling issue and a hydrogen leak. Launch controllers and engineers came up with a plan to make sure all the rocket’s engines got down to the necessary -420 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA then rescheduled the launch. But, now it seems the Artemis 1 launch is plagued with new problems ahead of lift-off.

At a Glance

  • The Artemis 1 launch was originally scheduled for August 29. But, a cooling issue caused it to be rescheduled for September 3 at 2:17 pm ET
  • Launch preparations began at 5 am ET, but launch controllers discovered a hydrogen leak in the quick disconnect cavity around 7:15 am. This is a different leak from the first one which was in the Space Launch System Core Booster
  • Launch controllers attempted two different solutions for repairing the leak, neither of which was successful

Artemis 1 Runs Into Technical Difficulties as the Launch Window Closes In

According to CNN, launch controllers discovered the new leak while fuelling the rocket with liquid hydrogen. The leak occurred in the quick disconnect cavity; this is located in the engine section of the core stage and feeds liquid hydrogen into the rocket. Previously, there was a hydrogen leak in the SLS Core Booster, found while launch controllers were fueling the rocket.

For the current leak, controllers attempted to warm the liquid hydrogen line in order to get a tight seal. This worked for a moment, but the leak then reoccurred. Next, according to NASA, launch controllers proceeded to “close the valve used to fill and drain [the liquid hydrogen], then increase pressure on a ground transfer line using helium to try to reseal it.”

This second plan was unsuccessful as well, and launch controllers are reverting back to the initial plan of warming the line. The launch window is set for two hours, opening at 2:17 pm and closing at 4:17 pm. The launch teams are currently behind schedule trying to solve the issue, but that’s better than having the rocket explode in the air. Artemis 1 is an unmanned flight, but it’s imperative that the first expedition back to the moon is successful.

NASA’s Plans For Correcting Launch Issues Before Lift-Off

According to Mike Sarafin, the Artemis mission manager, hydrogen leaks and other issues are “acceptable risks” of a launch. As for Engine No. 3, which wasn’t cooling to the proper -420 degrees, launch controllers planned to “bleed” the engines. This means gradually increasing pressure in the core stage liquid hydrogen tank, according to CNN. They also planned to begin cooling Engine No. 3 earlier than the others. This would allow it time to get to the necessary temperature.

Though, John Blevins, Space Launch Systems chief engineer, states that Engine No. 3 actually had a faulty sensor instead of an actual cooling issue. Launch controllers plan to ignore the sensor instead of taking precious launch time to fix it. It isn’t a critical component of the rocket, and will not affect the launch.