NASA Sees More Delays in Moon Rocket Test After Technical Problems

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)

This summer, NASA hopes to use a Space Launch System rocket to send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a mission around the moon. However, the “wet dress rehearsal” isn’t going quite as smoothly as they planned. The wet dress is currently on hold until a pair of technical problems can be resolved.

What to Know:

  • NASA is preparing for a passenger-less test flight around the moon
  • The test flight is set to take place this summer, with a crew going to the moon in 2024
  • Multiple technical problems threaten to delay the launch

A Stalled Fueling Test Resulted in Setbacks for NASA Moon Rocket

Despite multiple hiccups in the final test for its Artemis I mission to the moon, NASA is still working toward a June launch of the passenger-less rocket. “We’re not ready to give up,” Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters during a news conference.

Yesterday, NASA made a second attempt at a wet dress rehearsal, a simulation of every stage of launch short of the rocket leaving the launchpad. With a successful rehearsal, NASA will be one step closer to returning astronauts to the moon. The space administration aims to put the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the moon by 2025.

Unfortunately, the test came to a screeching halt on Monday because of a problem with a panel on the mobile launcher. The panel in question controls the core stage vent valve, according to Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA’s Artemis launch director. The valve helps to relieve pressure from the rocket’s core stage.

Despite the team’s concerted efforts to resolve the issue, the problem remains unsolved. That said, NASA officials remain determined. “This was a test, and the purpose of the test is to fully understand our systems in a day-of launch configuration,” Blackwell-Thompson said. “Our team accomplished quite a bit.”

NASA Continues to Work Toward Resolving Malfunctions

Once the Orion crew capsule launches, it will rocket toward the moon, soaring around but not landing on the lunar surface, then returning to Earth. Though NASA is experiencing difficulties, they feel that the malfunctions are leading them in the right direction. “We didn’t get through everything we wanted, but certainly learned a great deal that we’ll take into our next attempt,” said Jim Free, head of NASA’s exploration systems development.

Thankfully, the issues with the moon rocket are minor setbacks, and not a threat to the overall mission. “The rocket is fine. The spacecraft (capsule) is fine. We’ve just got to get through the test and the test objectives,” mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters.